Joey Aliff is a multiple-sport athlete. Name the season and he’s there ready to play. But that’s hardly surprising given his surroundings.

“It’s kind of expected in this town,” the Centralia senior said. “It’s the standard to play three sports here. Even if you’re playing two sports, people will think you’re not doing much. It’s needs to be three.”

providence medical groupWhile he’s willing to give any sport a go, one position has always stuck out.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is play quarterback here,” Aliff said.

For the last three seasons, Aliff has done just that, stepping under center as the Tigers’ signal caller.

Now in his final year, he’s looking to lead the program back to its former greatness, and based on the team’s strong start the possibility of that happening appears very achievable.

Joey Aliff
Centralia High School senior Joey Aliff is a three-year starter for the Tigers’ football program. Photo credit: Grant Clark.

“Experience never goes out of style,” Centralia coach Matt Whitmire said. “He’s a kid that shows the way instead of just speaking about it. At the end of the day, we look to him for a lot of different things, but the most important thing is the leadership he gives our football team.”

Aliff estimates about “95 percent” of the team’s large senior class has played together since third grade, resulting in a strong, almost unbreakable bond.

Back then, however, Aliff wasn’t the multi-dimensional quarterback he is today.

“I was too big to play quarterback,” said 6-foot, 200-pound Aliff. “I played line for my first two years. I was about 15 pounds over the weight limit to play quarterback so they put me on the line. Brayden Andrews, who’s our center, played on the same line as me. We had fun, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It wasn’t until fifth grade that I was moved to quarterback.”

Joey Aliff
Aliff has led the Tigers to a 2-1 start this season. Photo credit: Grant Clark.

In sixth grade, Aliff was moved to running back for the first three games before one glaring aspect surfaced, forcing him to once again adopt his long-desired position.

“I think I was the only kid on the team who could throw a football,” a laughing Aliff said about earning the job by default. “So the coach put me in. I’ve been there ever since.”

A three-year starter, Aliff has guided the Tigers to wins in their first two games this season. It comes a year after Centralia went 3-6, ending the season on a three-game skid.

“The start (to the season) was definitely a boost to our confidence,” Aliff said. “I think it showed us that the work was starting to pay off. Coming into the year we had a lot of kids who weren’t sure what we were going to be like as a team and thought about not turning out. We just want to keep it going. We’re a tight group of seniors. We all want to do better this season. I think all of us want that one last ride before our football days are over.”

Aliff has certainly done his part in making that happen.

A year after throwing just eight touchdown passes, he has already accounted for five through the air over the first three games, including a three TD, 230-yard passing performance in the Tigers’ 35-14 non-conference victory over Mark Morris.

Aliff pictured with Centralia football coach Matt Whitmire. Photo credit: Grant Clark.
Aliff pictured with Centralia football coach Matt Whitmire. Photo credit: Grant Clark.

“With a kid like Joey, you have to defend every square inch of the field,” Whitmire said. “Teams have to account for him. As soon as they drill another safety down, we know he can go over the top. If they don’t pack the box well enough, he’s going to hurt them with the run.”

Centralia closes out its non-conference portion of its schedule on September 23 at Kelso before beginning play in the 2A Evergreen Conference, regarded by many as the best league in the classification – something that is not lost on Aliff and teammates.

“These seniors are the ones that want to break the streak,” Whitmire said. “Number one, they want to get back to the playoffs and, number two, in the worst way, they want to beat W.F. West as well and they’ve been putting in the work they need to be that team.”

The Tigers begin their EvCo slate at home on September 30 when they host Black Hills.

The program has gone winless in conference play the past two seasons, posting a 0-6 record over that span, but with Aliff leading the charge, this is a drastically different Centralia squad from previous years.

“Joey’s a gunslinger. We like to use the term cautious recklessness with him,” Whitmire said. “He’s a physical kid, but with that being said he’s not going to do anything stupid. He brings a mentality that really gets our team going. Any time a quarterback runs over a defender, which he’s capable of doing, it affects all 60 kids on the team.”

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