It’s always nice to be able to secure a win in front of your home fans. It’s even better to do so when the contest in question is a league game that doubles as homecoming.
Still, sometimes the circumstances of a victory collude to take some of the fun out of the final score.
On Friday night Centralia put that exact scenario to the test when they were able to escape with a 25-22 victory over Black Hills in their Evergreen 2A Conference football matchup.
“We shot ourselves in the foot all night with penalties, missed blocks, and a lack of effort and somehow we still came away with the win,” said Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault after addressing his team postgame.
To wit, the Tigers committed 13 penalties that cost them 108 yards while also fumbling the ball three times and tossing an interception into the clingy paws of the Wolves defense. When all was said and done, however, Centralia was able to do just enough to keep happy both the alumni in attendance, and their homecoming dates waiting in the wings.
Centralia got off to a promising start with a dozen unanswered points in the first quarter. The first score came a little more than six minutes into the game when Braidyn Hoyt dove into the end zone from two yards out. The groundwork for that score was laid when Benito Valencia batted down a Black Hills pass to force a turnover on downs before Cameron Erickson hit a streaking Colby Sobolesky-Reynolds on the sideline for a 37-yard pickup.
The Tigers added to their early advantage with 1:27 left in the first quarter when Blaine Wass found the end zone, this time from five yards out. Wass keyed up that score himself when he intercepted a Wolves’ pass and returned it 25 yards.
That momentum dissapated quickly howver when Centralia muffed a Black Hills punt in their own territory with less than a minute before halftime. Zack Loveless then set up the quick score for the Wolves with a 20-yard sweep before Ryan Moloney hit Trevon Moore on a slant for a 10-yard touchdown. That score left the score at 12-6 during halftime.
Centralia looked like they learned their lessons in the locker room, though, especially when Sobolesky-Reynolds got loose for a 68-yard touchdown jaunt through the teeth of the Wolves defense. The first play of the fourth quarter marked the end of the Tigers offensive output on the night when Erickson connected with Crystian Bean for a 16-yard scoring strike to extend their lead to 25-6.
Black Hills was able to answer back quickly when Moloney found Nick Bovenkamp open for a 16-yard touchdown pass. The two then connected on another pass for the two-point conversion.
With an 11-point lead in hand and less than three minutes remaining an interception by Ephraim Halseth seemed like it would seal the deal for Centralia but the Wolves were not interested in going away quietly. As such, they switched up their look at quarterback and mixed in handoffs to their workhorse, Loveless, until the beast of a running back to a one-yard plunge for a touchdown. Loveless then toted the rock across the goal line for a two-point conversion to cut the Tigers lead to just three points with 53 second left in the game.
Luckily for Centralia, hands-team member Chris Kirner was able to come up with the ensuing onside kick by Black Hills and a pair of victory formation plays allowed the clock to expire on a heartburn inducing win.
“When the onside kick was coming at me I was just thinking I have to do whatever I can to get this ball back back on our side so we could close the game out,” said Kirner.
The senior defensive back noted that Coach Thibault was none to pleased with the way the Tigers claimed victory in Week 6.
“He was not happy about how we won and how close it was. It was a very sloppy game on our part. We basically gave them hope going into halftime and that touchdown at the end to make it a three point game,” said Kirner. “I feel like once we got up 18-6 we kind of let our foot off the gas a little bit and then they hit us with some big chunk plays and caught us off guard a little bit.”
Centralia outgained Blackhills 300 to 215 in total offense but those pesky penalty yards nullified many of those gains.
Kirner tabbed defensive end/tight end Derek Beairsto as the irreplaceable cog in the Tigers operation.
“The difference maker for me was I really feel like it was Derek Beairsto. He set the edge on defense and on offense he made some big blocks,” said Kirner.
Beairsto also claimed homecoming king honors at halftime in addition to swatting down multiple pass attempts by the Wolves.
Cameron Erickson slung the ball 17 times for 110 yards and a touchdown for Centralia. Sobolesky-Reynolds led all rushers with 186 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and hauled in four catches for 63 yards. Benito Valencia also hauled in a spectacular one-handed catch along the sideline for 37-yards in the first quarter but came down awkwardly and spent the rest of the game with a bag of ice and a jacket on in place of his shoulder pads.
“He’s going to miss a game at least. Hopefully not two. He’s a very valuable part of this team and I don’t know if he would have ever left the field tonight,” Thibault said of Valencia. “He made a heckuva catch over there and then came up with a sprained joint of some sort. He’s got a high dollar set of pads but just landed on it wrong. He’s a big kid going fast.”
Blaine Wass snagged two interceptions in the game for Centralia while Halseth and Bean each grabbed one pick.
While Thibault was relieved to have the win in hand he was far from satisfied as the crowd gathered for post game congratulations.
“We’ve got to clean up our mistakes. Just stupid, stupid mistakes. I mean, the first play of the game we had a holding call. You just don’t need to do that,” explained Thibault. “Stuff like that needs to be cleaned up or we won’t win games.”
Centralia (4-2, 1-1 league) will play at Rochester next Friday.