LACEY — As crisp as the W.F. West football team looked in sweeping to a touchdown on their opening possession, the rest of the first quarter they were almost comically inept.
River Ridge took advantage, riding consecutive Bearcats turnovers and a power running game led by Elijah Camacho to 21 first-period points.
Thereafter, Tanner Gueller and the Bearcats found their footing, scoring 37 straight points to earn a 44-21 Evergreen Conference 2A victory at South Sound Stadium.
Gueller completed 22 of 36 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns, and Toby Johnson caught two TD passes and made two interceptions. W.F. West improved to 6-1, 2-1 in the EvCo.
River Ridge (4-3 overall) gained 193 yards on the ground, 256 total, but second-half mistakes cost the Hawks dearly as they fell to 1-2 in EvCo, clouding their playoff picture.
Gueller hit Alex Cox for 43 yards on the game’s second scrimmage play, then two snaps later the senior honors candidate found Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Exactly as advertised for the high-scoring Bearcats, whose only loss this season was in overtime against Tumwater.
What did not follow form was the tipped Gueller pass on the Bearcats’ next series that was snagged by Hawk defender Chris Leiba and returned 35 yards for a touchdown.
Or the fumble by Bowe McKay on W.F. West’s next play from scrimmage, recovered by the Hawks at the Chehalis 41.
Three carries by mini-beast Camacho (5-foot-6, 185 pounds), the last a 31-yard burst up the middle, had the ball in the end zone, and the Hawks had a 14-7 lead.
The Bearcats’ first-quarter bumblings weren’t over. Returner Bryan Moon dropped the ball on the subsequent kickoff and finally fell on it at his own 4.
After the Hawks forced the Bearcats to punt from their end zone, seven straight runs by Camacho, including a 24-yarder and the final 2 yards to paydirt, gave River Ridge a 21-7 lead.
Gueller righted the ship for the Bearcats, hitting on 6 of 7 passes in a drive spanning the first and second quarters, with the payoff an 11-yard strike to Johnson.
Just before halftime, Gueller pulled the Bearcats into 21-21 tie on a mini-drive set up by Johnson’s first interception of Hawks quarterback Kobe Key.
Gueller hit Rogelio Sevilla for 15 yards and Nathan Sherfey for 11 more, then scrambled to avoid a sack and connected with Sherfey again for a 15-yard TD.
Johnson returned his second interception to the Hawks’ 28.
It took Gueller one play to find Cox for the go-ahead 28-yard TD strike.
Timberline 60, at Mount Tahoma 0: The Blazers’ winning streak stretched to three games as Timberline erupted for 47 first-half points en route to the shutout of the Thunderbirds in 3A Narrows League play.
Seven Blazers scored touchdowns, including Jonathan Dowell (six carries, 70 yards, two touchdowns) and Andrew Paquin (seven carries, 119 yards, one touchdown).
Two of quarterback Gabe Gutierrez’s three completions were for touchdowns to Trent Gallagher and Cory Becker.
Tumwater 59, at Centralia 20: The top-ranked and undefeated Thunderbirds had 397 yards of total offense, including 359 yards on the ground, led by Christian Cummings’ 126 yards on 11 carries and four touchdowns (three rushing) against the Tigers.
Cummings scored touchdowns on runs of 38, 9 and 7 yards and also had a 20-yard reception for a touchdown for Tumwater.
At Rochester 35, Forks 7: The Warriors clinched a 1A SWW Evergreen Division playoff spot and is in the driver’s seat for a league title with their win over the Spartans.
Rochester raced to a 21-0 halftime lead.
Tenino 26, Montesano 6 (at Aberdeen): The Beavers built a 20-0 lead on the Bulldogs, the defending 1A state champions at Stewart Field in Aberdeen, and defeated Montesano for the first time in 17 seasons.