Warriors Show Big-Play Capabilities in Win Over Tigers

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With all four touchdowns coming from 22 yards or more, including a 65-yard fumble return touchdown and a 44-yard TD bomb, Rochester big-played visiting Centralia for a 28-0 victory in 2A Evergreen Conference action Saturday night.

The Warriors went to work quickly, scoring on the opening drive of the game when Landon Hawes hit Max Mboob for a 29-yard touchdown reception with 9:26 left in the first quarter.

Star tailback Talon Betts then put the Warriors up 14-0 with a 22-yard touchdown jaunt just before the end of the first quarter.

Centralia, playing with all-league senior tailback/free safety Chase Sobolesky back after missing the first four games, struggled to move the chains most of the night.

Sobolesky helped spearhead the opening drive of the second half, bringing the Tigers to a first and goal on the 4-yard line — their first time in the red zone. But a botched pitch on a sweep gave the ball right back to the Warriors.

But the Tigers’ held strong until eight minutes left in the game. With the Tigers’ offense at the Warriors’ 35-yard line and driving, Rochester lineman Sawyer Robbins knocked the ball loose from QB Landon Jenkins in the act of throwing and returned it 65 yards to the house.

Up 21-0, a Carson Rotter interception set up Landon Hawes’ 44-yard connection with Mboob to put the game out of reach at 28-0 with 7:22 to play.

It was a bounce-back victory for a Warriors team coming off their first loss of the season, a 37-13 drubbing on the road by league foe Shelton. It was the reality check they needed, Rochester coach A.J. Easley said.

“We’re seven days removed from being brought back down to earth,” Easley said. “Sometimes a loss grounds you a little bit, focuses you a little more. Kids took that to heart. They hadn’t lost yet. They didn’t like that feeling.”

The biggest improvement from last week to Saturday was the offensive line play. Betts and Tate Quarnstrom were being swallowed up by Highclimber defenders last week but, against Centralia, the backfield duo was routinely gaining 3 to 4 yards before getting touched.

“Offensive line was unbelievable,” Easley said. “Talon and Tate ran the ball extremely well but the line of scrimmage is just moving 4 yards, 4 yards. It was awesome.”

Betts continued his tear through the 2A EvCo, finishing with a game-high 162 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. Quarnstrom tacked on 70 yards on 14 carries.

Hawes used precision passing to finish 7 for 8 for 123 yards and two scores. Mboob caught both receiving touchdowns, finishing with four catches for a game-high 98 yards.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are still searching for their first win in what has become a frustrating season. 

The return of Sobolesky for the first time this season, who earned second-team, all-league honors at running back as a sophomore two years ago, was expected to provide a spark. He did defensively at safety, turning into Brian Dawkins at times to hammer ball carriers and limit big run plays. 

The Tigers defense entered Saturday allowing nearly 43 points per game and, other than a few big plays, they stood tall against a Rochester offense that came in averaging 38 points per game in its three wins.

“They really just big-played us,” Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault said. “They had one drive of significance and everything else was a big play.”

Offensively, for the Tigers, it was more of the same: one step forward and two steps back.

With an offense that has scored just 34 points in five games, Sobolesky's speed and quickness was neutralized by the Tigers’ o-line troubles. Sobolesky and the rest of the Tigers’ backfield was gobbled up the second they received handoffs on multiple occasions. 

Gabe Seymour led the backfield with 13 carries for 94 yards on tough running. With little time to throw, Jenkins was held to 4 for 9 passing for 20 yards and two picks.

“We fumbled the ball and we missed some blocks,” Thibault said. “We had guys in places to make plays and it didn’t happen, and it’s frustrating. Our kids worked really hard this week in practice.”

Centralia (0-5, 0-3 league) will look to nab its first win when it hosts Aberdeen on Friday in 2A EvCo action. Rochester (4-1, 2-1 league) travels to W.F. West on Friday.

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