Facing the undefeated and number one ranked Thunderbirds of Tumwater here in the Hub City on Friday the Tigers set a bare minimum goal for themselves at the onset of the 2A Evergreen Conference football contest — Don’t get hurt.

So naturally, on the game’s first play from scrimmage Centralia running back Braidyn Hoyt carried the ball for three hard knock yards and a pile of shredded tire fluff. He then emerged from the pile obviously hobbled and barely able to get off of the field under his own power. Hoyt did not return the rest of the game and early indications are that the junior may have broken his ankle on the play.

In hindsight that fateful first play was mere foreshadowing for what would come as the T-Birds trounced the Tigers, 62-6. The loss leaves Centralia in a three-way tie for third place in the EvCo with Aberdeen and Black Hills. The Tigers, Bobcats, and Wolves will now have to play a Kansas Tie-Breaker on Tuesday in order to determine which two teams qualify for the district crossover game and who goes home with their collective tail between their legs.

“I think our kids played great even though the score doesn’t indicate that,” said Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault after Friday’s loss. “Unfortunately we’ve been bit by the injury bug. We’ve got a guard out, a couple of DB’s, a tight end, but the rest of the kids stepped up and played well.”

However, facing a depleted Centralia roster on the Tigers’ senior night, Tumwater was able to steal the show with 464 yards of offense and 48 unanswered first half points.

Turner Allen got the T-Birds started with a 42-yard touchdown run and Jack Jones followed up shortly thereafter with a 28-yard scoring jaunt. Dylan Paine then chipped in a 72-yard touchdown scamper before Hunter Baker scored the first of his two touchdown’s from nine yards out. Jaylen Clay added a 52-yard rushing score midway through the second quarter before Baker got loose again, this time for a 66-yard scoring saunter.

Centralia held possession for the final play of the first half and snapped the ball with four seconds left on the clock. Tyler Woods then proceeded to rip the ball from the clutches of the Tigers’ ball carrier and returned it 34-yards for a touchdown well after time had expired.

The second half offered little relief for Centralia as the first play from scrimmage wound up as a 44-yard rushing touchdown for Clay. Then in the fourth quarter, it was Jones who snagged an interception and returned it 90 yards the other way for the T-Birds final score of the night.

Thibault conceded that Tumwater is a particularly talented team with an embarrassment of riches at their skill positions and in the trenches.

“They showed us for an extra long time,” said Thibault of Tumwater’s first string talent.

Thibault also noted how proud he was of players like Caleb Simpson, who led the Tigers in rushing with 19 carries for 73 yards despite playing out of position in a pinch created by all of those team injuries.

“Caleb Simpson stepped up big for us tonight. I don’t know what his stats are but he ran pretty hard so it’s nice to have that luxury, to have somebody who’s willing to just run right in there,” Thibault said. “Hopefully that’s a characteristic we can build on. I mean obviously we’d love to have the biggest, fastest, strongest kids in the state. I’d probably only play them two and a half quarters up 60 but that’s just my style.”

Trailing 62-0 with just over three minutes remaining in a game with a running clock Centralia was finally able to get off the schneid when Cameron Erickson connected with Chase Sobolesky-Reynolds for a 32-yard touchdown pass. Sobolesky-Reynolds hauled in another Erickson pass earlier in the game for 38 yards to round out the spoils of the Tigers’ air attack.

“That’s a play that we used to run down at Toledo but at this level it hasn’t worked. So we thought, ‘Well Sobo’s a pretty special kid. Let’s try it with him.’ It’s worked twice. He caught a touchdown against Chehalis on the same play,” noted Thibault.

With the status of several players unknown for Tuesday’s do-or-die tie-breaker affair the Tigers look like they may be playing short staffed one way or another. While tight end Benito Valencia is expected to return from a shoulder injury to play in the tie-breaker, all indications after the game were that Hoyt is unlikely to suit up.

“The kid is super tough. He doesn’t ever talk,” said Thibault. “He’s always like, ‘I’m good. I’m good!’ and then he runs like a horse you should put down in the back. So for him to come off the field in tears, I mean the kid is so tough, I just hope it’s not broken. He’s been the unexpected cog in our wheel that makes things go.”

Centralia will host Black Hills and Aberdeen on Tuesday evening in a Kansas style tie-breaker to determine final seeding in the 2A Evergreen Conference. The top two finishers will place third and fourth in the conference and advance to the district crossover playoff. A start time has not been set for the tie-breaker.

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