Taft’s Josh Salsbery goes all out to unsuccessfully haul in a long pass from Jack Stempel on Friday night
Down 5-0, Stempel, Thomas lead Tigers on 27-0 rampage
Quarterback Jack Stempel overcame two interceptions and an intentional grounding call in the end zone for a safety by throwing for a short score and returning a tipped pass nearly 80 yards untouched for a touchdown, while senior Everett Thomas was all over the defensive end of the field Friday in a 27-5 West Valley League homecoming victory over Willamina.
A converted second-team all-league quarterback, Thomas, who now anchors the Tigers’ offensive and defensive lines, was one of eight seniors playing their final game at Voris Field. The 6-foot. 3-inch, 230-pound State wrestler made several pivotal plays in the first half, including a key sack, a fumble recovery and the tipped pass Stempel returned the distance that provided the Tigers with a 13-5 halftime cushion.
The Bulldogs scored first when Stempel was pursued a yard deep in the end zone and the trailing back judge called him for avoiding a sack by throwing the ball away at 5:57 of the first quarter.
Willamina kicked a 37-yard field goal and missed one of relatively the same distance in the first half. but led 5-0 after the opening quarter.
Stempel hit senior Nathan Hertz on a short play-action pass for a 7-5 lead with 5:58 remaining in the half. The score was set up by a recovered fumble by Thomas and running back Dylan Gold’s hurdling run around the left side.
Stempel’s long interception return 1:32 before halftime gave the 15th-ranked Tigers a 13-5 lead.
The Tigers scored two second-half touchdowns to put the game away.
Class 3A Taft improved to 4-4, 3-3 under first-year coach Jake Tolan, while Willamina fell to 3-5, 1-4.
The Tigers close out their season at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at PacWest member Jefferson.
Jack Stempel waltzes down the visitor’s sideline Friday after picking off a pass and running unmolested for the score