By Alec Dietz / [email protected]
TUMWATER — The Black Hills football team has seen its fair share of adversity over the past four years.
This senior Wolves class lost in the Kansas Tiebreaker three years ago, then had a tough, COVID-shortened 2020 season before a one-win 2021 season.
So in 2022, with the Black Hills seniors getting a second crack at the tiebreaker and a bid to the crossover weekend, they weren’t going to let what happened to them in 2019 happen again.
Led by some late drama, the Wolves clinched the No. 3 seed in the 2A Evergreen Conference and will play Mark Morris in Longview next Saturday with a trip to state on the line.
“It’s amazing, I’m so proud of the kids and happy for them,” Wolves coach Garrett Baldwin said. “One more game to qualify for state, I’m just excited and excited and proud of this team.
On a night Black Hills had long thought of, even through the triumph, the Wolves hit bumps along the road early. The Wolves opened the tiebreaker in overtime against Shelton and fell 8-7 after allowing a two-point conversion to a wide-open receiver in the back of the end zone.
The loss sent the Wolves into an overtime tie against Aberdeen, with the winner going home after the Bobcats fell to the Highclimbers in the second overtime.
Facing 4th and 5 and needing a score after the Bobcats had already found the end zone, Wolves quarterback Jaxsen Beck found Maddox Hodge for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 heading into the second period. .
Beck took first on the next period, found Xander Shepler for a 16-yard touchdown with a nice strike, and the Wolves again decided to send their PAT drive to take a 7-point lead.
But facing a big snap and an oncoming rush, Shepler — who had just scored the opening touchdown — didn’t like what he saw.
“The ball was kicked a little high and I caught it and looked up and saw people coming so I didn’t think I could get the ball down and kick in time,” Shepler said. “I decided to pull it out and I thought I had to score. There’s no point, I had to score.”
Shepler ran to his left and beat a Bobcat defender to the pylon for the two-point conversion and an 8-point lead. After Aberdeen scored again on a short touchdown drive, it took two to keep the game going.
“He’s a playmaker, he makes plays,” Baldwin said of Shepler. “He knew he had a job to do and he did it.
After allowing a touchdown and two-point conversion to Shelton to drop their first tiebreaker, the Wolves didn’t allow it again to seal the victory and the third seed in the league.
“This game guarantees adversity, so how were we supposed to respond?” Baldwin said. “We didn’t want to start like that, we didn’t have that vision, we wanted to win the first game and see how it ends in the next game, but we kept fighting and we did it.”
“The defense has had a tough time of late, but it’s a big stand, but hopefully that stand will give us some energy to go into this crossover game with some momentum.”
Despite losing to Shelton in the first tiebreaker, as the Highclimbers and Wolves were the two teams to advance, and the Wolves beat Shelton in their regular season game, the Black Hills won the third/fourth tiebreaker. While Black Hills heads to Longview to battle the winner of the Greater St. Helens League by Mark Morris, Highclimbers head to Washougal.
“It means a lot, we’ve struggled the last three years,” Shepler said. “It means a lot to everybody, we worked so hard during the offseason and the season to get here, we all needed it.