‘We’ve Got the Best Line in the Game’: W.F. West’s Big Boys Up Front Ready for State


When Daniel Matagi took the handoff of W.F. West’s second play from scrimmage in the Swamp Cup two weeks ago and rumbled upfield for 8 yards, he got to hear his name called by the PA announcer on offense in a high school game for the first time in … well, probably ever.

On the very next play, fellow senior lineman William Buzzard one-upped his friend with a 15-yard gain in his own rushing debut. 

Two plays later, Matagi got the final laugh with a 1-yard touchdown. When asked who was the better tailback, he took his time to consider being diplomatic, before laughing.

“He had more yards,” Matagi said. “But I had a touchdown.”

That would be the last time either would be announced on offense, probably for the rest of the year. But don’t think the lack of attention on the mic or in the statsheet equals a lack of impact.

Oh no, not at all.

“We’ve got the best line in the game,” said sophomore running back Tucker Land, who ran behind Matagi, Buzzard, and the rest of said line for over 8 yards a carry and a pair of touchdowns in a 55-7 rout of the Tigers.

Indeed, if there’s been one thing that’s taken the Bearcats from the solid crossover team they were last season to veritable state contenders this fall, it’s the group up front, which has dominated at pushing opposing lines off the ball day in and day out.

“I think it really sets the tone,” Buzzard said. “We’re violent up front, and we do our jobs well. If we don’t, we get ripped, and try to get better.”

Getting better has been the theme all season long, and the Bearcats are hitting their stride just in time. In last week’s crossover matchup against Woodland, back at Tiger Stadium, W.F. West ran out into monsoon-like conditions, and ran behind its line just about the entire first half.

Hill even went back to the Power-I formation the Bearcats had unveiled against Centralia with Buzzard and Matagi in the backfield as fullbacks in front of Land, though this time they were lead blockers, essentially putting two levels of linemen between Land and the defense when he got the ball.  

The plan yielded 273 yards on the ground — 127 from Fugate, 90 more from Land, and 60 and a pair of touchdowns from Gage Brumfield — and a 34-7 win.

That result got the Bearcats back to the 2A state tournament, this time with the No. 2 seed, behind only defending champs Lynden. They’ll host Ephrata on Friday, playing for the chance to extend their season another week.

But it’s not just the large-scale numbers and results that have improved. Down in the trenches, Matagi and Buzzard have raised their game, manning one side of the line, with fellow seniors Landon Hirte and Hunter Lutman also going into their final postseason and junior Andrew Penland filling the core out.

“It’s a lot of communication,” Matagi said. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t have much communication, but we learned that we’re able to play faster and play harder and really dominate the trenches when we know what each other is doing, what we’re doing. Faster football makes better football.”

And with the Bearcats set to go as far as their line can lead them, they’re picking a good time to play their best football of the year — even if they’re probably not going to get their hands on the ball again.

They’ll take getting to put their hands on a trophy instead.