The Archbishop Murphy and Tumwater high school football programs are each home to a rich tradition built by a legendary coach.
Terry Ennis started Murphy’s program in 2000 after a success-filled 11-year stint at Cascade High School, which included a Class 4A state title in 1991. He quickly turned the small Catholic school in southeast Everett into a football powerhouse, winning 1A state championships in 2002 and 2003.
Ennis died in 2007, two games into his eighth season with the Wildcats, at 63 years old. He was the second-winningest coach in state history at the time with 287 victories over 36 seasons.
Just four wins ahead of Ennis at that point was Tumwater’s Sid Otton. The Thunderbirds’ longtime coach retired in 2016 with 394 victories, making him the winningest football coach in state history. He spent 43 of his 50 seasons at Tumwater, capturing six state championships and making 27 appearances in the state playoffs.
Victories were commonplace for Ennis and Otton, but both men are remembered fondly by their former players and colleagues for more than just winning.
“He wasn’t just about wins and losses,” Archbishop Murphy coach Mark Leone, who played for Ennis from 2002-2006, said of his former coach. “He never talked about championships or anything like that. It was all about getting you better as a person. It was all about getting the team better. He was so consistent with everything he did. You knew you were getting the best from him every single day, and you knew he just wanted the best for you and was just trying to push you to be the absolute best you can be.”
Tumwater coach Bill Beattie, who played for Otton at Tumwater from 1974-77, said the lessons he learned from his high school coach extended well beyond the football field.
“(The lessons) had everything to do with how you treat people and the character and values that you try and instill in kids in your program,” Beattie said.
Ennis and Otton led many state-title contending teams over the years, but the two didn’t cross paths often. They never met in the state playoffs because their schools were usually in different classifications. In fact, there hasn’t been an Ennis-Otton matchup since Otton’s T-birds beat Ennis’s Cascade Bruins in 1992.
A new generation is set to change that at 1 p.m. Saturday in a 2A state playoff quarterfinal matchup between eighth-seeded Archbishop Murphy (8-2) and top-seeded Tumwater (11-0) at Tumwater High School.
Ennis’s grandson Joe, a junior for the Wildcats, and Otton’s grandson Ryan, a sophomore for the Thunderbirds, are among the players scheduled to compete at Sid Otton Field.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Leone said. “Coach Otton and coach Ennis did so much for the state of Washington with high school football. To see the two grandsons play against each other is really awesome. I think it just shows the tradition, and I think it’s cool that both kids are also in the same program their grandfathers were.”
Joe Ennis was just 5 years old at the time of his grandfather’s death, but he said the biggest lesson he learned from him was to have heart.
“I’m not the tallest guy, I’m not the biggest guy and neither was he, but his heart and his work ethic really just showed it didn’t matter what the attributes were,” said Joe Ennis, who is the first in his family to carry on the Ennis legacy at Murphy.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior has become an impact player in all three facets of the game for the Wildcats. He’s racked up 858 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns on 104 offensive touches, has been a key contributor to Murphy’s strong defense and has returned a punt for a touchdown on special teams.
“He’s an all-around player. He plays offense, defense. He does whatever you ask,” Leone said. “He’s a ‘Yes coach’ kind of kid. He’s smart, he understands football. It’s not surprising knowing the family lineage he has. He’s been a heck of an athlete for us.”
Leone said he sees a bit of his former coach in Joe Ennis.
“The intensity between the two is so parallel,” Leone said. “Both of them are very competitive.”
And playing football at Murphy has given Joe Ennis plenty of opportunities to hear stories about his grandfather. Two of Leone’s assistant coaches, Roger Brodniak and Tony Slater, also played for Terry Ennis.
“I’m always hearing just crazy stories about how he’s mentored someone, how he’s just changed someone’s life for the positive,” Joe Ennis said. “It just makes me want to emulate my life off of his.”
Ryan Otton has been going to Tumwater games since he was a little kid. His father, Tim, is the Thunderbirds’ defensive coordinator. His older brother, Cade, graduated in 2016 and is now a tight end for the University of Washington.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound sophomore defensive end is surrounded by plenty of coaches who have been impacted by his grandfather — 13 of Tumwater’s 15 coaches spent considerable time around Sid Otton.
“I hear a lot about him all the time,” Ryan Otton said. “He really changed this program in a great way.”
Ryan Otton said putting on the Tumwater uniform for the first time last season was “really a special feeling.” In his sophomore year, he’s started to show promise, recording 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He’s also part of the Thunderbirds’ rotation at tight end.
“Like any young kid who comes in, he’s trying to get his feet wet a little bit,” Beattie said. “Each week he seems to keep improving. He understands the game a little bit better and obviously he’s gifted with some athletic talents. But probably more importantly, he’s gifted with some great mental talents. He’s a smart kid. He understands the game. As you would expect coming from that family, he does the right things.”
One thing that has impressed both Leone and Beattie about their young players is their ability to handle the pressure that comes with their last names.
“Joe has done a great job of trying to form his own identity here,” Leone said. “I can’t imagine the pressure there is when your grandfather’s name is on the stadium when you play a game. He doesn’t let that get into his head either and he doesn’t put that pressure on his shoulders. He just acts like a normal kid.”
Said Beattie of Ryan Otton: “He’s just kind of a relaxed, laid-back kid and takes all that stuff in stride.”
And as each grandson continues to make his impact on his team, he’ll be doing so in a program that has been permanently stamped by the ideals and values established by his grandfather.
“I think it’s really cool that not only did they get these programs to where they are, but they’re teachings and their lessons are getting taught today by their former players,” Leone said.