TUMWATER — As much anguish as the Tumwater Thunderbirds players felt on the field after last year’s 41-7 loss to Lynden in the 2012 Class 2A football state championship game, Garrett Terrell shared that same agony while smothered within the student body in the Tacoma Dome stands.
A year ago, Terrell could only be a Tumwater football fan. A Division I baseball prospect, he elected to forgo his junior season of football to focus on his first love. The outfielder and pitcher spent countless weekends at out-of-town tournaments.
The itch to return was immediate in a senior season that now includes another
trip for Tumwater to the Class 2A state title game, a rematch against Lynden at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.
“I knew I was going to regret it if I didn’t play my senior year 20 years from now,” Terrell said. “There was no doubt in my mind I was coming back.”
Terrell’s return was a welcome sight for his teammates, but a problem quickly arose: Where would Terrell play? For a while, he was a player without a home position; the backfield was booked solid; so were the linebacker spots, two positions at which Terrell had plenty of experience.
The door was open in the secondary despite Terrell having zero experience as a cornerback. His speed, plus a 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame, has fit the T-Birds’ mold.
In 13 games — all starts — Terrell has 61 tackles (41 solo), 19 knockdowns and four interceptions, including a career-high seven knockdowns in last Saturday’s 45-40 semifinal win over Prosser, a game in which the secondary got a workout with quarterback Mason Schutt throwing for 406 yards.
With all the success, Terrell still feels the position is unnatural to him.
“I try to hang in there the best I can,” he said.
The Tumwater secondary could have its work cut out against Lynden, too. Lions receivers took apart the Ellensburg safeties and cornerbacks in their 21-7 semifinal win last week. The Lions’ top receivers, Scooter Hastings and Jalali Phelps, have exceptional size at 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-3, respectively, and have a combined 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns on 88 catches through 13 games.
But Terrell is gaining knowledge every game at his new position. He’s quick to watch film of past games to critique his play and take note of what to work on. You wouldn’t know Terrell is a rookie on the field, though, according to fellow senior defensive back and friend Hunter Moore.
“It’s like he’s played there all four years,” Moore said. “He’s developed a long way, and he’s become a really good corner.”
So good that Terrell earned second-team all-2A Evergreen Conference honors in his first year at the position — this after not playing for a year.
“You think taking a year off would be fine, but it really takes a toll,” Terrell said. “The game is a lot faster than it was two years ago from what I remember.”
firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick