Not that the No. 2 W.F. West football team necessarily needed the lesson, but it got reinforced last week in a one-point win over No. 15 Ephrata all the same — now that the Bearcats are into the state tournament, the margin for error is all but gone.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wake-up call, we knew they were good coming in,” coach Dan Hill said. “We just didn’t play our best game there in the third quarter and kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. But we were fortunate enough that we could respond and keep ourselves in the ballgame, and pull it out.”
If there wasn’t proof of that enough from W.F. West’s own first-round game, just look at their next opponent: No. 10 Sedro-Woolley, making its second trip down I-5 in as many weeks after upsetting No. 7 Tumwater 30-22 last week.
Was Ephrata under-ranked? Probably. How about Sedro-Woolley? Yep, them too. At this point, the numbers that run next to teams’ names are all but irrelevant, and everyone, as Hill and his staff like to say, is running on “borrowed time.”
“From here on out in the quarterfinals, you’re not going to get any layover,” Hill said. “It’s real, hard-nosed football. But our kids have a lot of heart, and they’re not going to quit.”
The Cubs — whose lone losses this year came to No. 1 Lynden and No. 6 Anacortes — took down the T-Birds with a quick blitz in the first half, much like how W.F. West earned its win over Tumwater back on Sept. 30. Sedro-Woolley scored four times in the first two quarters and led 30-7 at halftime before holding on.; the Bearcats scored four times and led 28-0.
But through Hill’s eyes, the similarities just about end there, with the Cubs running a lot less spread out than the Bearcats, and rolling with multiple tight ends much of the time. Those bigger packages can often give quarterback Carsten Reynolds time to let receivers get downfield and take defensive backs with them, meaning that even if he can escape the pocket, he’ll have plenty of green grass in front of him.
So beyond simply getting pressure into the backfield, the focus for W.F. West’s experienced defensive front lies in keeping gap integrity, and not being too successful about getting upfield.
“Our pass-rush integrity has got to be good,” Hill said. “We can’t get up and behind him, because he’ll step down and get out. It’s going to be imperative for us to essentially swallow him, and not allow him to have anywhere to go.”
If the Bearcats can manage that, and can play a complete game, they’ve got a crack to at least match some history. W.F. West is 1-4 all-time in state quarterfinals; the lone win came in 2011. A win Saturday at Centralia will match the best season the program’s seen.
If they don’t, they’ll be the Cubs’ second upset victim in as many weeks.
“It’s just the nature of one-and-done; as soon as you hit that Week 10, if you lose, you’re out,” Hill said. “Everybody else, some teams aren’t playing football anymore. We tell our seniors, ‘You’re not seniors anymore, you’ve got to be the leaders, be the dudes,’ and we tell our juniors, ‘You guys are now seniors, because all these other football programs that are done, their juniors are their seniors.’ Just bring a maturity level, and the fact that this has got to be top priority.”