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Week 6 Preview: Bearcats Host Rochester in Homecoming Matchup

By Aaron VanTuyl

avantuyl@chronline.com

It’s homecoming for the Bearcats and a homecoming, sort of, for their head coach.

Bob Wollan was Rochester’s head coach from 1996 to 2002, before a three-year stint in Pullman during which his Greyhounds won a 2A state title.

And on his staff in Pullman? First-year Rochester coach John Moorhead, who was going through college at Washington State University at the time. They’ll be on opposing sidelines Friday night, when the Warriors (2-3) visit Chehalis (4-1) in an Evergreen 2A Conference matchup.

“He came on board and helped us out, and lo and behold,” Wollan said of Moorhead. “You stick around long enough and that stuff happens, I guess.”

The Warriors are 2-3, with wins over 1A squads Charles Wright and Tenino, which is already two wins above their total from a year ago. Moorhead is the ninth head coach in Rochester since Wollan headed east.

“Obviously they’ve gone through a lot of transition, and I think (Moorhead) is doing a really good job,” Wollan said. “Just talking to him, he’s committed to riding this thing out and turning it around. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Bryce Lollar, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior, quarterbacks the offense.

“I really like their quarterback. He’s athletic, he can throw the ball, run the ball, and then they’re running the option now,” Wollan said. “When we first started there, we started out running the option and just kind of evolving it, and thought that was the place to start when we were just getting that thing going, and I think he’s doing a great job.”

W.F. West, meanwhile, is coming off a 38-7 win over Aberdeen in its EvCo opener that improved its record to 4-1 and moved the Cats up to No. 8 in the state poll. That record, though — which includes a tight loss to undefeated 3A Lake Washington — doesn’t mean things are all gravy in the Mint City.

“We just feel like we’re nowhere near where we need to be at this point, in a lot of different phases in our game,” Wollan said. “There’s a lot of coaching going on, a lot of decision making going on, and a lot of competition within our team right now to get on the field and be the guy. We’ve still got more questions than answers.”

Starting linebacker/receiver Dakota Hawkins will miss a second straight week with an injury, and running back Gabe O’Neil is out for the remainder of the season. Quarterback Nole Wollan, though, is recovered from an injury that limited him in the Aberdeen win, and sophomores Jaiyden Camoza (running back) and Leandre Gaines (tight end) have been bright spots throughout the season.

“They’re varsity players, and they’ve got unique talents for young guys,” Wollan said. “Every day is a learning opportunity for them, and a learning opportunity for us as coaches to figure out ways to get them the ball, and how to incorporate them into the whole system.”

The offensive line, Wollan added, played well as a unit against the Bobcats.

“I think pretty much everybody in the stadium knew we were going to run the ball at a certain point,” he said, “and even though Aberdeen knew and was loaded up defensively for us, I thought we executed and got on people and did a nice job of pushing. As far as in the run game, we took some steps, for sure.”

W.F. West and Rochester kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night at Bearcat Stadium in Chehalis.
Centralia at Tumwater

The Thunderbirds aren’t sporting the gaudy record they’ve become accustomed to at this point in the season, but that’s certainly not to say they aren’t still a state power.

Tumwater hosts Centralia on Friday night in an Evergreen 2A Conference game, boasting the No. 4 ranking in the state poll with a 3-2 record — though those two losses were to Bellevue (ranked No. 6 in the 3A poll) and Union (ranked No. 10 in the 4A poll).

“They’re typical Tumwater,” said Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault. “They’re big, strong, fast and well-coached. They’ve played probably the toughest nonleague schedule in the state.”

The Thunderbirds are averaging just under 40 points a game in their first year under head coach Bill Beattie, who was hired to take over for Sid Otton, the winningest prep coach in state history, in January.

Elias Polito, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior, directs the Thunderbird offense, though Dylan Paine has been its most productive weapon. The sophomore has run for over 700 yards this season, with 178 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns last week in a blowout of Steilacoom.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have been working this week to maximize their strengths — namely, getting the ball in the hands of running back Jose Pineda. The senior has run for 543 yards and four touchdowns, with 100 receiving yards and two more scores through five games.

“I think he might have had like 15 (carries) in a row Friday, and he just wanted more and came up a half-inch short (in an overtime loss to Black Hills),” Thibault said. “But we’re going to try to get him in different areas. … Hopefully we can isolate him and let him run a little bit.”

The Tigers are working through a variety of injury situations, but the key, Thibault said, is in the mental approach.

“They’re physically capable. It’s a mental thing,” he said. “We told them not to hold their heads down and assume Tumwater’s going to beat us.”

Centralia (1-4) and Tumwater (3-2) kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Tumwater District Stadium.
Around the Area

Tenino looks for its first win on its black turf Friday night with upstart Forks (4-1) visiting for a 1A Evergreen League contest. … Morton-White Pass (2-3) heads north to face Neah Bay (2-3), an eight-man squad fielding 11 for Friday’s nonleague game. … No. 5 Adna heads to No. 4 Rainier in the premier SWW 2B League Mountain Division game of the week. The Mountaineers (5-0) are coming off wins over MWP and Onalaska, while the Pirates (4-1) are coming off a loss to Napavine. … Onalaska (3-2) heads to Puyallup to face winless Chief Leschi in a Mountain Division game, while No. 3 Napavine (4-1) hosts Life Christian (1-4) in another Mountain Division matchup. … No. 7 Toledo (3-2) hosts Mossyrock (0-5) in a SWW 2B League River Division game, while in other River Division action Toutle Lake heads to Winlock for a battle between 1-4 teams. … No. 10 Pe Ell-Willapa Valley (3-2) heads out Willapa Harbor to play undefeated South Bend in a SWW 2B League Coastal Division showdown.

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