By Dave Weber
CHEHALIS — Sometimes an athlete’s biggest moments never quite arrive.
W.F. West hasn’t beaten Tumwater since this season’s seniors were in second grade. It’s been that long since the Bearcats won a league championship, riding that long ago 34-14 win over the 2009 Thunderbirds to a 2A Evergreen Conference title.
This year had a chance to be different and for the first, scoreless, 22 minutes of Friday night’s game a W.F. West win looked possible – until both top running back Jaiyden Camoza and starting quarterback Josiah Johnson went down in rapid succession.
Just after Camoza’s right ankle was twisted in a pile-up with W.F. West driving and Johnson’s shoulder was injured as he was sacked, Tumwater put together its first extended drive of the game, scoring on a 23-yard run by Dylan Paine that sparked the T-Birds to a 34-0 victory.
Tumwater (7-0) is now alone in first place in the 2A EvCo with no truly challenging regular season games left. W.F. West falls to 6-1, but almost certainly will still reach the postseason.
“It was disappointing to get hurt,” Camoza said. “But we were in this whole game. They mentally beat us, but we’re fine, we’ll bounce back.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bearcats grabbed the momentum when a 61-yard Leandre Gaines punt rolled dead at the Tumwater 3-yard line. Unable to pick up a first down, Tumwater punted and W.F. West took over at the Thunderbirds 41.
“They’re a tough, physical team. They were going to give us everything we could handle. We knew it was going to be a 48-minute game,” Tumwater coach Bill Beattie said.
Fueled by a 34-yard run by Johnson, W.F. West eventually drove to the Tumwater 7. But on the very play the Bearcats were as deep as they would ever get – a second-and-goal at the T-Bird 7 – Camoza was the lead blocker as Gaines tried the middle of the Tumwater line. Camoza wound up in pain at the bottom of the pile.
He spent the rest of the game on crutches, having carried the ball only twice.
“I got caught up in the mix and my ankle got rolled on,” Camoza said.
W.F. West ended the possession with a missed field goal and couldn’t stop an ensuing seven-play, 80-yard Tumwater drive for the game’s first score, that 23-yard run by Paine. Paine was held to two yards or less on five of his first 10 carries, including three losses, but ultimately erupted for 194 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns.
“We expected them to come out tough, they do every year,” Paine said. “It was a dog fight in the first half. We knew that was coming. We kept our energy up and didn’t get tired.”
Just as Tumwater’s offensive fortunes were changing, W.F. West saw Johnson leave the game.
“Any time you lose kids like that, it’s tough.” Beattie said.
“It hurt us quite a bit,” Gaines, who became the focal point of the Bearcats’ offense after the two injuries. “They contribute a lot to our team so it was tough to come back after that.”
With freshman quarterback Gavin Fugate coming into the game for the final drive of the first half, the Bearcats’ timing changed. A bad snap to open the second half resulted in a fumble that set up another Paine touchdown, this one from 11 yards out, and though W.F. West continued to hit hard they got no closer to the lead.
Tumwater scored three fourth quarter touchdowns, on a nine-yard pass from Cody Whalen to Austin Terry, a 49-yard gallop by Paine and a one-yard run by Jaylen Clay.
Clay’s short scoring dash paled in comparison to his defensive highlights. He ended W.F. West’s first two possessions by intercepting Johnson passes, then snagged a third pick after Fugate entered the game.
“Watching film over and over again, I learned their routes,” Clay said. “I stayed on top and once the ball was in the air I told myself, ‘go get it.”
“Jaylen’s a hidden gem,” said Beattie. “People don’t know so much about him, but he’s a very good player on both sides of the ball.”
No. 1 Tumwater 0 7 7 20 – 34
No. 5 W.F. West 0 0 0 0 – 0
T – Dylan Paine 23 yard run (Nathan Vani kick)
T – Paine 11 run (Vani kick)
T – Austin Terry 9 pass from Cody Whalen (Vani kick)
T – Paine 49 run (Vani kick)
T – Jaylen Clay 1 run (pass failed)
T – Whalen 4-7-0-52.
W – Josiah Johnson 1-5-2-11, Gavin Fugate 2-6-1-6.
T – Paine 26-194, Clay 6-2, Turner Allen 6-28, Whalen 2-(-8), Hunter Baker 3-61, Jack Jones 4-
28, Andrew Lowe 1-1, Caleb Sadlemeyer 2-6.
W– Johnson 9-55, Jaiyden Camoza 2-3, Leandre Gaines 9-39, Fugate 6-(-44), Luke Wichert 4-12.
T – Danny Goodburn 2-33, Paine 1-10, Terry 1-9.
W – Max Taylor 2-13, Gaines 1-4.