Talon Betts highlighted a wild back-and-forth contest on Friday night, leading Rochester to 40-34 victory over Centralia for the Warriors’ first win of the season on neutral turf in Tenino.
The 6-foot-1 junior ran the ball 18 times for 231 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground, with another score on a 30-yard catch from quarterback Landon Hawes.
“He looked really good. He ran the ball really hard, and fortunately he was able to break some runs,” Warrior coach A.J. Easley said. “And he’d be the first one to tell you, too, that the five or six guys blocking for him were really on it for him tonight.”
Betts’ big night, however, took all four quarters to tally up; a big chunk of the game’s action took place over a two-and-a-half minute span in the third quarter.
The Tigers, up 16-12 at the break, scored on a 63-yard pass from Erickson to big tight end Benito Valencia, then found the end zone again when Erickson found Noah Aliff for a 30-yard strike.
Betts, naturally, answered with a 26-yard scoring run, and ran in the extra points, but just a few seconds of game time later Centralia’s Santos Lafferty broke free for an 80-yard touchdown. That gave Centralia a 34-20 lead with just under 8 minutes left in the third quarter.
“The kids were kind of scrambling,” Easley said. “We felt like if we had the ball, we were going to be okay, but we had a couple onside kicks that kind of took that away from us.”
Rochester quickly moved back downfield, with Hawes finding Nolan Eyles for a 61-yard completion. Eyles was ruled down a half-yard from the end zone, but Hawes punched it in on the next play.
Betts, however, wasn’t finished. His receiving touchdown came with just over two minutes left in the third, and his conversion run tied things up; his final touchdown, on a 60-yard run, came with eight and a half minutes left in the game and put the Warriors ahead for good.
“The Betts kid’s legit. He’s quick,” Thibault said. “And they rotate a bunch of guys out. They had a lot of kids rotating, and a lot of kids in the action, and that caught up with us.”
Centralia took its 16-12 lead into halftime behind a 5-yard touchdown from Brady Hoyt and 1-yard dive from quarterback Cameron Erickson, with completed conversions. Betts scored on 6- and 23-yard runs in the first half.
Erickson went 7 of 18 for 186 yards with two touchdowns and added 54 rushing yards. Lafferty finished with 114 yards on 10 carries and Hoyt carried the ball 24 times for 94 yards. Valencia caught four passes for 117 yards.
Hawes finished 3 of 4 for 102 yards without an interception.
Eyles was another bright spot for the Warriors. The first-time player caught a 61-yard pass just short of the goal line to set up Hawes’ touchdown run in the third quarter and played well at safety, as well as booting kickoffs — a role into which he was enlisted just three days earlier.
The come-from-behind Evergreen 2A Conference victory was a nice change of pace for Rochester, who opened the season with losses to perennial EvCo frontrunners Tumwater and W.F. West.
“The guys have been working, the kids and coaches, since September to get to this point, and I think it was really good to have those guys feel like, this is why you’re doing this,” Easley said. “This is the reason. So it was good.”
Palmer Watt, a freshman, stepped in at inside linebacker in the second half and played well, Easley added.
Rochester (1-2) plays at Aberdeen on Saturday.
Centralia (1-1) hosts rival W.F. West on Saturday.