Tanner Gueller is considered by many to have an NCAA Division I-caliber arm. The W.F. West High School quarterback threw two long second-half touchdown passes Friday night, and the Bearcats put the dagger in the Capital Cougars in a 42-28 victory at Ingersoll Stadium.
The win helped the Bearcats (7-1 overall, 3-1 2A Evergreen Conference) clinch the conference’s No. 2 seed. They will host a Week 10 crossover game against the second seed from the 2A Greater St. Helens League.
The Bearcats withstood a surge by the Cougars, who tied the score with 21 consecutive fourth-quarter points. Capital (3-5, 2-2) built its comeback on three W.F. West turnovers, including two interceptions of Gueller.
The senior quarterback threw a 70-yard touchdown pass that finally settled the issue with a little more than three minutes remaining, but the Cougars were left feeling decidedly unsettled. Receiver Bryan Moon stepped out of bounds on the left sideline before returning to the field and catching the ball.
“That was a turning point right there because we had battled back,” Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. “But what are you gonna do?”
The Cougars moved the ball effectively on the ground behind running backs Conner Kennedy, Ryan Rieta and Jacob Johnson. Capital ran 80 plays to W.F. West’s 50.
Kennedy had 22 carries for 128 yards, and Rieta gained 107 on 24 carries.
But three first-half turnovers and another in the second half ended promising possessions, and a penalty nullified a long touchdown run. One Cougars fumble was returned for a W.F. West touchdown. Capital had seven turnovers — four fumbles and three interceptions.
“We killed ourselves,” J.D. Johnson said.
Capital got on the scoreboard first on a 53-yard, seven-play drive, after the first of three consecutive Bearcats series that ended in punts. Johnson gained 13 yards on a pitch sweep to set up an 18-yard scoring run by Rieta.
A sack of Gueller by Jacob Johnson and Riley Haub-McElreath stymied the Bearcats on their next series, and a punt left the Cougars in good field position. But a Johnson fumble was recovered by W.F. West’s Moon, who bolted 65 yards to the end zone for the tying score.
The Cougars were tough on Gueller through the air in the first half, limiting him to 7-for-15 passing for 28 yards. Gueller finished 14-for-28 for 215 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
It was Gueller the runner that hurt the Cougars on the Bearcats’ only fruitful drive of the first half. He rambled for 42 yards on a keeper, picked up 15 yards on the next play, then one snap later carried it in from the 1.
W.F. West led, 14-7, at halftime, despite being outgained by the Cougars, 154-93.
Gueller called his own number again on the first series of the second half. After hitting Moon for 9 yards and a first down, he faked the handoff to the running back, turned up the middle and found daylight for a 55-yard touchdown run.
Kennedy coughed it up at the end of a 7-yard run inside the Bearcats’ 20, and one play later Gueller flashed his throwing arm, hitting Moon in stride on the right sideline on an 82-yard scoring play.
But the Cougars were nowhere near finished. Jakob Racimo picked up a Bearcats fumble and cruised 19 yards to the end zone. Capital trailed, 28-14, with 11:40 left to play.
On W.F. West’s next series, Michael Randall picked off Gueller and returned it to the Bearcats’ 41. Rieta finished off the mini-drive with a 1-yard TD run as the Cougars pulled to within a touchdown.
Racimo added to his night’s work with an interception. Kennedy soon had a 4-yard run to tie the score.
Gueller’s late 70-yarder to Moon was followed by a 36-yard breakaway run by Rogelio Sevilla to close the scoring.
Capital plays River Ridge next week needing a victory to keep its playoff hopes alive.
“Next week becomes even more important,” J.D. Johnson said.