At this point, the Swamp Cup doesn’t belong in the trophy cabinet at W.F. West High School.
It’s been there 14 years; give it a student ID card and a backpack and tell it to get to first-period English class like any other freshman.
After all, that swamp man has been in Chehalis wearing his white helmet as long as a quarter of the student population at W.F. West has been alive, and will stay at least a year longer after a 55-7 beatdown by the Bearcats at Tiger Stadium on Friday.
“For our guys walking into this program, this is the expectation,” W.F. West coach Dan Hill said. “Not only this game. It’s great to beat Centralia, a rival, and play well, and have 14 in a row, but just the expectation that this is what Bearcat football is. We come in, want to compete at a high level, and work hard to win and get better for the program. It means everything to our boys.”
And for the 11th straight year, a senior class will leave Chehalis without ever having lost to its rivals.
“It does mean something to me, and it means a lot to the team,” senior lineman Daniel Matagi said. “And it means a lot to the people that were here before us. They all come here to see and watch us win it again and again, year after year.”
Matagi will have something else special to remember his final Swamp Cup by, other than the lopsided score, the fogged the covered the turf in Centralia, and the memory of holding the trophy up as the Bearcats sang the fight song with the traveling student section that filled an entire section by itself.
Hill and his staff made sure of that early in the week, with a package the Bearcats called “Dream Team.”
The Bearcats had practiced the heavy set all week long, with Matagi and fellow senior William Buzzard lined up as fullbacks for tailback Tucker Land.
“We knew it was going to get called, but we didn’t know it was going to get called in the first quarter,” Buzzard said.
But after the Bearcats forced a three-and-out to start the game, and Gavin Fugate hit Cody Pennington over the top for 45 yards on W.F. West’s first play of the game, the call for Dream Team rang out across the sidelines.
W.F. West lined up in the heavy set. Land motioned out of the backfield. Fugate took the snap and turned for the short handoff to Matagi, who had one singular thought:
“Don’t drop the ball,” he said afterward. “That’s all you gotta do. It doesn’t matter if you get tackled in the backfield, just don’t drop the ball.”
He didn’t drop the ball, and didn’t even get tackled in the backfield, going forward up the gut for a 7-yard gain. Next up, it was Buzzard’s turn, and he rumbled 15 yards before the Tigers could drag him down.
So close to the goal line, it was only fitting to keep the Dream Team on the field, and Matagi capped the drive with from a yard out.
“It’s fun for everybody,” Hill said. “Our whole team, they love our line. They’re incredible young men and they do everything for us, they work hard, and to give them the opportunity to carry the ball and live their dream, it’s fun stuff.”
From there, Matagi and Buzzard returned to their normal spots on the line, and their normal job of dominating up front to set the tone for the W.F. West offense, which did as it willed all night long.
Fugate only needed to throw the ball seven times, finishing with five completions for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Pennington, who’s stepped into a bigger role since Cameron Amoroso got hurt earlier in the season, led W.F. West with three catches for 115 yards.
On the ground, Land went for 41 yards and two touchdowns on five carries, working through massive holes all night long.
“He’s finally getting a feel of the Friday night speed, being able to use his body, see the lines, and make the cuts,” Hill said. “He’s getting better every time he touches the ball, and it’s fun to watch him run and grow.”
All of those numbers came in a first half in which the Bearcats put up 289 yards and 49 points, scoring on all six of their offensive possessions and adding an Evan Stajduhar pick-6. By agreement of the coaches, the clock began running with 10 minutes left in the second quarter when the lead hit 42-0, instead of waiting until for the second half, when Hill put his backups in.
Declan McDonald added 45 rushing yards for W.F. West. Beau Guyette, who came in with the backups, ended up leading the Bearcats in rushing with 48 yards on seven carries, and scored the visitors’ final touchdown of the night.
Centralia struggled to get anything going offensively against W.F. West’s first unit, going into halftime on minus-4 rushing yards and 30 total yards. The Tigers found more success in the second, with Kellen Rooklidge finishing with a team-high 40 yards on the ground and quarterback Tommy Billings adding 28, and getting the hosts into the end zone in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard pass to Gabe Seymour.
The Tigers also got in on the lineman fun late, with senior lineman Willy Stinkeoway getting four handoffs for 16 yards late.
The loss puts Centralia at 0-9 to end Dustin McGee’s first season at the helm.
“It’s a good group of boys,” McGee said. “There’s a lot of greatness in their future. They didn’t have a lot of success here at Centralia High School, but they are the foundation piece that we’ll be upon in the future.”
W.F. West (7-1, 6-0 2A EvCo) will go into the crossover week as the 2A EvCo’s top seed. The Bearcats will host Woodland next Friday at Tiger Stadium.
“This is the real thing now,” Hill said. “It’s always the real thing, but you lose, you go home. All the chips are in, it’s all hands on deck. We’ve just got to go do this thing, keep plugging away, just keep doing our jobs. I think if we do that, we’ll have an opportunity to make a move.”