TUMWATER — It took the W.F. West football team exactly one drive to get up to speed.
Shipping up to Tumwater District Stadium to take on an undefeated and up-and-coming Black Hills side, the Bearcats gave up a huge kick return to start, narrowly avoided a deficit when the Wolves missed a field goal, and promptly gave the ball back to their hosts on a turnover on downs.
After that, it would be a long time before W.F. West gave the ball to anyone but the referees in the end zone, as the Bearcats rolled to touchdowns on five straight possessions to beat the Wolves 35-0.
“It feels great,” W.F. West coach Dan Hill said. “Every time you get a win it feels awesome. I think we played a very, very good football game tonight.”
And like so much for the Bearcats so far this fall, it all started up front.
The Wolves came in without leading tailback Johnnie Stallings, and W.F. West’s front feasted at the line all game long on defense. Black Hills senior Sean Moloney — Stalling’s replacement — finished with a grand total of 9 yards. As a team, the Wolves managed just one carry of longer than 7 yards, which came in the fourth quarter.
With the run game all but eliminated and Black Hills’ multiple offense suddenly not so multiple, the Bearcats could pin their ears back, and sophomore quarterback Jaxsen Beck felt the pressure all night long, going down for five sacks.
“Our defensive front guys are outstanding young men, they worked hard in the offseason, and it’s got them ready to go for playing elite-level defense,” Hill said. “Any time you can pitch a shutout it’s pretty special; that doesn’t happen all the time. You’ve got to give hats-off to the up-front boys for being able to do that for us.”
The sack yardage meant that the Wolves finished with a grand total of 9 rushing yards as a team, a number that didn’t climb back above zero until the gap was five touchdowns.
“It’s a confidence-booster, any time you can dominate physically,” Hill said. “That’s what this game is; the team that can dominate physically is going to win 99.9 percent of the games. We were able to do that tonight.”
Those same big bodies up front had similar success on the other side of the ball. Sophomore tailback Tucker Land had all kinds of holes opened up for him in a 110-yard performance; both he and quarterback Gavin Fugate reached the end zone on the ground. As a group, the Bearcats ran for 223 yards.
And after Fugate went 1 for 3 on W.F. West’s first drive, the senior sharpened up and picked apart the Wolves with ruthless efficiency.
On the very next W.F. West possession, Land got 28 yards on first down before Fugate ripped off five completions — hitting four separate receivers — with the last one being a 19-yard strike to Cameron Amoroso.
Fugate finished his day 18 for 24 for 269 yards. Six separate Bearcats caught at least one pass, led by Gage Brumfield and Amoroso, who each had six receptions for 108 and 86 yards, respectively.
Most of the W.F. West attack through the air came on quick screens, getting the ball out of Fugate’s hands quickly on high-percentage and to receivers in space.
“We’re going to take what the defense gives us,” Hill said. “If they’re going to do something, we’re going to try to attack it and exploit it, and play that chess game. Our screen game has been very effective the last few weeks. I’m very pleased with that, because that’s a whole team effort with that, because that’s the quarterback, receivers, and line all working together.”
With the screens operating almost as an extension of the run game, drawing the defensive backs further up toward the line of scrimmage, it all came together in the second quarter, when Fugate faked a screen toward the boundary, then turned his vision and lofted an 18-yard touchdown to Brumfield in single coverage on the other side of the field.
Black Hills (3-1, 1-1 2A EvCo) will get a week to try to right the ship, taking on Aberdeen on the road next Friday.
“We’ve got to turn it around,” Wolves coach Garrett Baldwin said. “That’s it, it’s just one game.”
W.F. West, meanwhile, gets to gird itself up for the battle for prominence in the league, going right back to Sid Otton Field to face No. 2 Tumwater for a chance to make some real noise in the area and state scene.
“I don’t care what anybody says, they’ve got some quality football players over there,” Hill said. “It’s going to be a big-time challenge next week.”