The Tigers came out here Friday night and looked poised to set the world on fire and establish themselves as a playoff contender in their first 2A Evergreen Conference game of the year. Instead, Centralia wound up wiping big kitty tears and shaking their heads as they wound up falling to Aberdeen by a score of 21-14.
On their first drive of the night Centralia used a trio of running backs to march 66-yards on eight plays in less than four minutes for a score. That touchdown was punched in from two yards out on fourth and goal by Shiloh Gundo after a 36-yard run by Eduardo Matias brought the Tigers deep into Aberdeen territory.
Matias, who is listed at just 5’4” and 145 pounds, led Centralis with 76 yards rushing thanks to his low pad level and turbo bursts of speed that saw him gain more than 20 yards on two different first half plays.
As the game wore on though the Tigers continued to spread the carries around and Matias found himself the odd man out as his usage dropped off the table.
“We have a bunch of different fullbacks and Shiloh’s been our guy. He was sick so that’s why he didn’t start,” explained Thibault. “He’s a little bit bigger of a team and runs pretty hard so we just went with the guy who we’ve been riding the whole time.”
Gundo finished the game with 15 rushes for 49 yards and a two-point reception. As a team, the Tigers gained 194 yards on the ground, and 282 yards total, while Aberdeen picked up just 49 rushing yards, but 246 yards through the air.
As time wound down in the first quarter Aberdeen took over possession at their own 40 yard line and then utilized a trick play to pick up big yards. First Dublanko threw a backwards pass to Elijah Brown, a lineman who had lined up at wide receiver for the one0-off play, and then Brown lofted a deep ball to a wide open Cameron Hochstetler for a gain of 50 yards that brought Aberdeen to Centralia’s 10-yard line. Two plays later Dublanko went racing around the right end for a 9-yard touchdown run. That score gave Aberdeen a 7-6 lead with 11:52 remaining in the half.
That score held up through the rest of the half and nearly all of the third quarter until, facing 4th and 5 from their own 45 yard line, Centralia decided to go for the first down and came up well short. That turnover on downs set the Bobcats up with a short field that the visitors quickly capitalized on with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Dublanko to Dakota Davis that forced the Tigers back onto their ill-fated comeback trail.
Midway through the fourth quarter Centralia’s Benito Valencia helped to re-inflate a fleeting bubble of hope in the Hub City when he hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tanner DeMonbrun on 4th and goal. That touchdown set up a two-point conversion pass from DeMonbrun to Gundo that knotted the game up at 14-14 with 6:52 remaining in the game.
“He’s a big kid. We’re lucky we have two big tight ends and he made a heckuva catch,” said Centralia coach Jeremy Thibault of Valencia, a 6’3”, 220 pound sophomore.
Those good feelings for the Tiger faithful did not last long however as the Bobcats immediately found paydirt on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Dublanko to Wyatt Johnson that gave Aberdeen their final advantage. That scoring strike came on their first play of that drive and effectively wiped out all of the good vibes that had been accumulating beneath the grandstand at Tiger Stadium.
An interception by the Bobcats at the five yard line on Centralia’s final drive put the Tigers away for good. As his players broke their post game huddle Thibault tried to put a positive spin on their efforts.
“We had some kids that played well. We just couldn’t convert on 3rd and 4th downs and they did,” he said. “Aberdeen’s 0-4 record is deceptive. I talked to the guy on the radio today and their opponents are 17-0.”
Thibault said that despite the league loss the most important thing was that his team played four full quarters of football and showed growth in critical areas of their play.
“This is the first time in the year and half that we’ve been here that I think this matters,” the second year Tigers coach said. “You know, it’s a positive loss. You’ve got those guys buying in. They’ve worked hard so it means something to them finally. And I think in that case we can turn the page.”
Centralia (1-4) will play at Black Hills next week.