Beamer quarterback Esekielu runs and throws toward SPSL milestone

Todd Beamer senior quarterback T.J. Esekielu has led the Titans into the postseason for the first time in the school’s history thanks to both his running and throwing. Beamer will play the Greater St. Helen’s League champion Friday night in Vancouver. - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Todd Beamer senior quarterback T.J. Esekielu has led the Titans into the postseason for the first time in the school’s history thanks to both his running and throwing. Beamer will play the Greater St. Helen’s League champion Friday night in Vancouver.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

The Todd Beamer Titans were chasing history last week against the Puyallup Vikings and not having much luck catching it.

A win over Puyallup meant the Titans’ football program would earn its first-ever postseason appearance, while a loss essentially meant Beamer would be “playing out the string” once again.

And things were pointed squarely toward the Titans missing the playoffs one more time after Puyallup had rolled out to a 17-6 lead entering the fourth quarter on the turf at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

But that’s when Beamer’s senior, do-everything quarterback T.J. Esekielu did what he’s been doing all year long. Esekielu basically put the Titans on his back and carried them to 22 fourth-quarter points and into the playoffs for the first time in school history.

“He’s super tough and super competitive,” second-year Beamer head coach David Sundheim said. “He just wants to be good at everything.”

Esekielu finished the Puyallup game with 358 total yards and accounted for three touchdowns. He had 159 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and was also 12 for 18 through the air for 199 yards with a touchdown pass.

“That’s the big thing for us. He can throw and run,” Sundheim said. “That gives us an extra man in stuff we do, if that makes sense? It’s really an X’s and O’s deal.”

The 6-foot, 185-pounder’s versatility is a huge reason why the Titans (4-3 SPSL, 4-4 overall) will be taking on the champion of the Greater St. Helen’s League (Union or Skyview) in the preliminary round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night in Vancouver. The winner advances into the 16-team state playoffs.

“Our goal was to go to the playoffs this year and then continue on to state,” Esekielu said.

The senior has quietly put together a historic season in the South Puget Sound League. Through Beamer’s first eight games, he has accumulated an eye-popping 2,353 yards of total offense and is vying to become the first player in the history of the SPSL to throw for over 1,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 in a year.

Entering the Titans’ final regular season game, Esekielu has thrown for 983 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 1,370 yards and 12 TDs. Beamer took on the second-ranked Curtis Vikings Thursday night in their SPSL finale in University Place (after press time).

Lakes quarterback Drew Miller holds the SPSL record for total offense in a single season. Miller, who went on to play quarterback at BYU and Montana, compiled an astounding 3,309 yards during the 1995 season. But that number included 3,366 yards passing and minus-57 yards on the ground.

Esekielu won’t get to Miller’s single season record, but there was a chance that he could have moved into second place on the all-time list during Thursday’s game. Esekielu needed 247 yards of offense to pass former Rogers quarterback Jason Johnson’s total of 2,611 from 1996. He entered the game averaging 296 total yards a game.

Esekielu’s best game of the season actually came during an Oct. 8 loss to Federal Way. He totaled 478 yards of offense, including an SPSL record 392 yards rushing on 27 carries. He also had two TD runs and a pair of touchdown throws during the 40-35 loss to the Eagles.

Even more amazing is the fact that this is Esekielu’s first full season as a starting quarterback because last year was pretty much a throw-away on the football field.

After attending Decatur his freshman and sophomore seasons, Esekielu eventually transferred to Beamer during the early part of last school year.

“I kind of got in trouble,” Esekielu said. “Just stuff that a kid does. But Beamer gave me a new start. It’s been pretty good. I like the environment. Everyone is nice and respectful and keeps me out of trouble.”

After leaving Decatur, he wasn’t even eligible to play for the Titans until the fifth game of the season in 2009. Sundheim mostly used him as a running back on the offensive side of the ball and a safety on defense.

“Had he been there from the beginning and I knew what he could do, I’m pretty sure he would have been playing quarterback,” Sundheim said. “But after coming in the fifth game, it wasn’t the right thing to do. But ever since he’s been here, he hasn’t been in trouble one time. His teachers love him. It’s pretty impressive and he’s matured a lot.”

During his junior season at Beamer, Esekielu rushed for 356 yards on just 60 carries for an average of nearly six yards an attempt. He had a pair of 100-yard games against Emerald Ridge (119) and Rogers (118). Esekielu also completed 9 of 20 pass attempts for 196 yards and two touchdowns in relief of starting quarterback Ben Draeger.

“Even when I was playing running back, I always wanted to play quarterback,” Esekielu said.

But quarterback is just one of many positions Esekielu could play on a football team. The Beamer senior is the definition of a complete football player.

“He can do anything on a field,” Sundheim said. “He’s our best wide receiver. He goes against our defense and makes our (defensive backs) look silly. He catches everything.”

Esekielu is also one of the Titans best defensive players. He is listed a safety, but he actually lines up all over the field, including on the defensive line. Sundheim describes him as the team’s best “cover guy” and also as Beamer’s top pass rusher.

“He would play a lot more defense, but we don’t want him to get hurt,” he said. “He comes to work everyday. He works super hard and never complains.”

College football is something that is in Esekielu’s future plans. He just doesn’t know where yet. Because of his past, recruiters don’t have much game film to evaluate.

“I just like everything about football,” Esekielu said. “I like the contact and football gives me something to do after school to keep me out of trouble.”

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