2A Football: Bearcats Drain Drama Out of Swamp Cup Early
Big Gaines: Replacement Back Racks Up 3 TDs in 49-14 Win Over Centralia
By Jordan Nailon
W.F. West came into the 112th Swamp Cup missing both their stalwart quarterback and their electric running back to injuries. Those considerable gaps in the Bearcats starting formation, along with a surging start to the season for Centralia had many Twin Cities football fans wondering if this might be the year that the Tigers would finally bring the Swamp Man trophy back to the Hub City.
All of those pregame what-ifs went right out the window as soon as the game got underway, though, as W.F. West posted 28 unanswered points in the first quarter on their way to a 49-14 win in the 2A Evergreen Conference rivalry football affair.
Leandre Gaines was the driving force behind the Bearcats steamrolling of the Tigers on Friday as he moved into the backfield from his normal slotback position to help fill in for the Jaiyden Camoza, who took the night off on offense due to a finicky ankle. Gaines used his impressive combination of size, strength, and speed to run around and over Centralia defenders all night long, finishing with three touchdowns and 204 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Those stats would have been even more impressive if not for a penalty flag that nullified a 72 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Gaines scored all three of his touchdowns in the first quarter thanks to rushes of 39, 57, and 44 yards.
“I was just kind of looking forward to it quite a bit and Jaiyden helped me out quite a bit at practice. He helped me get the reads down and the gaps to hit and all that,” noted Gaines as the celebratory postgame horde warmed around him. “I had to be more patient than usual. I was kind of rushing it at the beginning and once I figured out how to slow down and hit the hole harder it all worked out.”
W.F. West coach Dan Hill noted that it’s a luxury to have a player of Gaines’ caliber to fill in at tailback, or even quarterback in a Wildcat formation, if need be.
“He’s a great security blanket,” said Hill. “We knew his packages were coming and they will continue to come. The weather in November, and hopefully December, it could be bad and we’ve got to have a big boy back there who can get the hard yards for us.”
Still, it was Gavin Fugate, a freshman making the first varsity start of his career, who got the Bearcats on the board first when he hit Max Taylor for a 28-yard touchdown toss just one minute and 38 seconds into the game. Fugate kicked the doors open again on the first play of the second half when he again connected with Taylor, this time for a 66-yard scoring strike. The freshman signal caller wound up capping his team’s scoring output with just under four minutes left in the game when he lofted a pass from the seven yard line to the corner of the end zone where Carter McCoy won the ensuing jump ball over his defender.
Fugate finished the contest 9 of 10 on his pass attempts for 142-yards and three touchdowns.
“He stepped up big. We couldn’t ask any more for him. He did perfect. He got balls where he’s supposed to. He got good reads. It was a great game for him,” said Gaines.
Hill also expressed his pleasure with the high stakes performance of his quarterback of the future.
“Gavin’s got a great set of skills and he’s just learning how to use them,” said Hill. “He’s only going to get better and he’s only a freshman.”
The Bearcats defense was also on point against a Tiger offense that has put up its fair share of points so far this season. While W.F. West gained 372 total offensive yards they held Centralia to just 200 yards of offense. Taylor and McCoy both snared interceptions and the Bearcats were able to scoop up one loose fumble to help keep Centralia off kilter.
The big hitters in the middle of the Bearcat defense like Trent Peters and Evan “Meaty” Moon did their part to make the Tigers uncomfortable all night as they continuously delivered one big hit after another.
“Trent has been doing that all year long. We have to take him out of practice occasionally so we can actually get a look. He’s a bulldog in there,” said Hill. “And Meaty, boy he’s stepped up big for us this year and he earned his job through his practice and hard work. He was always the guy making me the most mad at our offense in practice and now he’s the guy making me the happiest when I watch our defense in the game.”
Senior Kayden Kelly managed to turn in a special teams score for the Bearcats when he picked up a kickoff and returned it 80-yards to the house early in the fourth quarter.
Centralia wound up breaking the seal on the shutout late in the third quarter when Cameron Erickson hit Chase Sobolesky-Reynolds for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Then in the fourth quarter, Andrew Mitchell scooped up a fumble and ran it back 25-yard for a score.
Erickson was the Tigers leading rusher with 31 yards on nine carries. He also threw 15 times for 115 yards. Sobolesky-Reynolds hauled in two of those passes for 42 yards while Derek Beairsto and Blaine Wass each caught one pass for 37 and 36 yards, respectively.
In the aftermath of the loss Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault was left scratching his head and wondering how things went off the rails so thoroughly.
“I have no idea. It’s the same thing as last year. I thought our defensive coordinator and those coaches put together a good plan, it just didn’t get executed,” said Thibault.
The Tigers coach left Chehalis with an enhanced respect for the Bearcats defense, which is often overshadowed by their multifaceted offensive attack.
“I knew their defense was fast but it’s even faster in person. They get to the football fast,” noted Thibault.
W.F. West (7-1, 3-1 league) will play at Aberdeen next Friday. Centralia (5-3, 2-2 league) will host Tumwater next Friday.
BEARCATS 49, TIGERS 14
Centralia 0 0 7 7 — 14
W.F. West 28 0 7 14 — 49
WFW — Gavin Fugate 28-yard pass to Max Taylor: Bryce Laufenberg kick
WFW — Leandre Gaines 39-yard run; Laufenberg kick
WFW — Gaines 57-yard run; Laufenberg kick
WFW — Gaines 44-yard run; Laufenberg kick
WFW — Fugate 66-yard pass to Taylor: Laufenberg kick
CEN — Cameron Erickson 42-yard pass to Chase Sobolesky-Reynolds; Andrew Mitchell kick
CEN — Andrew Mitchell fumble recovery returned 25-yards; Mitchell kick
WFW — Kayden Kelly 80-yard kickoff return; Laufenberg kick
WFW — Fugate 7-yard pass to Carter McCoy; Laufenberg kick
Team Stats CEN WFW
First Downs 12 13
Rushing Yards 85 230
Passing Yards 115 142
Total Yards 200 372
Comp-Att-Int 4-15-2 9-10-0
Fumbles/Lost 2/1 3/1
Penalties/Yards 11/80 11/80
Rushing: CEN — Chase Sobolesky-Reynolds 13/27, Cameron Erickson 9/31; WFW — Leandre Gaines 14/204, Luke Wichert 4/40
Passing: CEN — Cameron Erickson 4-15/115; WFW — Gavin Fugate 9-10/142
Receiving: CEN — Sobolesky-Reynolds 2/42, Derek Beairsto 1/37, Blaine Wass 1/36; WFW — Max Taylor 3/99, Brit Lusk 2/28