TENINO — The crowd began lining up outside Tenino High School’s Beaver Stadium as early as two hours before the biggest football game in years for host Tenino and visiting Rochester. By kickoff, fans looking for a seat were forced to stand along the track or along the fence.
It was a crowd Tenino players described as “incredible” for Friday’s 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division regular-season finale with the league title at stake.
Tenino’s 37-27 victory over Rochester, coupled with Montesano’s win over Elma, gave the Beavers the league title outright and their first in 27 years in a game that featured five second-half lead changes.
Neither Rochester nor Tenino had won a league crown in more than a decade.
It was 1999 for Rochester, when the Warriors went undefeated in the regular season under now-W.F. West coach Bob Wollan and league MVP Kenny Driver in the old 2A Southwest League.
For the Beavers, it was and even further back – 1986, when they made a state semifinal run to the Kingdome.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Tenino sophomore Thomas Pier. “We’re going to keep clicking. We’re just going to get better.”
Both teams are playoff-bound. As the No. 1 seed, Tenino will play host to a 1A District IV playoff game; No. 3 Rochester will play on the road.
A week after Pier had 154 yards on five catches and three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 39-32 victory over Hoquiam, he did a little bit of everything against the Warriors. He had three catches for 28 yards and six carries for 31 yards, but it was his acrobatic two-point conversion seconds before halftime that pulled Tenino (5-4 overall, 5-1 league) to 14-11 and put a spark into the Beavers and their fans.
“That really fired our guys up and got us believing,” Pier said. “We never looked back.”
From there, the work of QB Calvin Guzman and tailback Zach Chamberlain helped carry the Beavers’ offensive load. Chamberlain had 117 of his game-high 152 rushing yards in the second half, scoring on touchdown runs of 10, 7 and 2 yards, and Guzman added two, including a 2-yard run that gave Tenino its first lead at 17-14.
The lead lasted all of seven plays. On a fourth-and-5 play from the Tenino 34, the Warriors (6-3, 4-2) went to their bag of tricks with Tyler Yarber’s halfback pass to Bobby Brien resulting in a 34-yard scoring strike and a 21-17 lead.
Then, the seesaw ride began: Tenino went up, 24-21, then Rochester, 27-24. It wasn’t until the first of two fourth-quarter scores that the Beavers went ahead for good. And their defense did the rest. On two of the Warriors’ final three drives, they ended in an interception and a turnover on downs.