MARYSVILLE — From studying game film, Lakewood football coach Dan Teeter knew that containing W.F. West quarterback Mitch Gueller was the way to slow the Bearcats’ offense.
But as Teeter and his team found out Friday night, knowing it and doing it are two different things.
Gueller, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior who is headed to Washington State University to play baseball, pounded Lakewood for 260 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead W.F. West to a convincing 33-18 victory in a state Class 2A quarterfinal playoff game at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
Gueller also completed four passes for 28 yards, but he did the primary damage with his feet. Taking snaps from a shotgun formation, he ran up the middle, off tackle and around the ends, breaking through arm tackles, bouncing off other tacklers, and sometimes carrying a few defenders for extra yards.
“He’s a heck of a football player,” Teeter said. “I don’t know if we’ve seen a better player. Maybe we have, but not one who’s performed any better against us, that’s for sure.
“And we saw it on film. We knew he was the man and our game plan was to stop him. We figured if we did, we’d get the W. But we didn’t and so (the Bearcats) got the W.”
On W.F. West’s opening drive, Gueller had carries of 6, 16 and 13 yards before dashing the final 9 yards for a touchdown. On the scoring play he started right, cut back to his left, began collecting tacklers near the 5, and carried a couple into the end zone.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Teeter said. “One of the strengths of our defense this year has been that we’re a physical team. We’ve been hitting people and they haven’t been breaking our tackles. But that shows how talented he is that he could do that to us.”
The Bearcats followed with touchdowns on their next two possessions, putting Lakewood in a 20-0 hole early in the second quarter. The Cougars finally got untracked, covering 58 yards in four plays for their first TD, and a two-point conversion made the score 20-8.
Lakewood’s hope rose even higher minutes later when the defense finally forced a W.F. West punt. And the Cougars mounted another promising drive, marching from their own 8 to the W.F. West 32 before the possession ended on downs with 1:26 remaining before halftime.
And on the Bearcats’ fourth play, Gueller carried into the line on what was pretty much a run-out-the-clock keeper, and he ended up breaking into the secondary and running 56 yards for a touchdown with 34 seconds to go.
Lakewood used a long kickoff return to set up a 35-yard field goal by place-kicker Randy Anaya on the final play of the first half, making the score 26-11 at the break.
W.F. West then pushed the margin to 33-11 on its opening possession of the third quarter, with Gueller gaining the final 28 yards on a burst over left tackle.
Lakewood scored its final touchdown in the game’s late moments on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Kolby Schueller to wide receiver Jacob Micheletti.
As much as the Cougars struggled to slow W.F. West’s offense, they also had trouble mounting any offensive momentum. Lakewood totaled just 94 rushing yards — by contrast, the Cougars had 533 and 468 yards on the ground in their previous two games — but they did get 312 passing yards, though much of it came in the late minutes as they tried desperately to rally.
“(The Bearcats) came out fired up and controlled the line of scrimmage,” Teeter said. “We’ve been dominating the line of scrimmage the last few weeks, and we were pretty confident that we’d do the same tonight. But give credit to those guys, they played one heck of a football game. They battled and fought, and they deserved that win all the way.”
The loss ended Lakewood’s season with a 10-2 record. But if Friday’s outcome was disappointing, the memories of a special season should be lasting.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Teeter said. “These seniors are the first class of kids I’ve had that actually started coming to the weight room as eighth-graders. The work ethic and the way they’ve put the time in … is really a credit to them. They’ve made an example for the kids beneath them.”
Two years ago Lakewood had a 3-7 mark, but many of these same players turned the program around a year ago, finishing 7-3. This season’s team won 10 of 12 games, and the roster is laden with underclassmen, which means “there’ll maybe be better things to come,” Teeter said.
“We’ve got a lot of talent coming back,” he added, “so we’re looking forward to next year.”
At Quil Ceda Stadium
W.F. West—Gueller 9 run (Huang kick)
W.F. West—Steen 6 run (Huang kick)
W.F. West—Hanson 10 run (kick failed)
Lakewood—Peterson 2 run (Peterson run)
W.F. West—Gueller 56 run (kick failed)
Lakewood—FG Anaya 35
W.F. West—Gueller 28 run (Huang kick)
Lakewood—Micheletti 6 pass from Schueller (Anaya kick)
Records—W. F. West 10-2 overall. Lakewood 10-2.