When Bob Wollan was named head football coach at W.F. West High School 10 years ago, his parents were among the first people he informed.
“I called my mom up and told her, and she said she wanted to take me out to lunch. She said the reason for that was it was going to be the last time we will have lunch together,” Wollan said with a laugh. “They’re pretty big fans of Centralia.”
There will be no shortage of Tigers or Bearcats supporters when the two school clash in the 109th meeting on October 21 at Tiger Stadium.
“It’s always a huge game,” Wollan said. “We’ll have a big crowd. It’s a very special rivalry.”
No one knows that better than Wollan, who has history with both programs.
Born and raised in Centralia, Wollan played for the Tigers in the late 1970s – earning first-team all-Black Hills League honors as a defensive back as a senior in 1979.
“A lot is always riding on this game,” Wollan said. “It’s about bragging rights. You’re lining up against guys you’ve grown up with and played against since you first started playing football. When I was in high school, we played each other twice. We would play early in the season in the Shiner Game and then again in our league game usually the last week of the regular season.”
Wollan only lost once as a player in the series. A year after leading Pullman to the Class 2A state championship, he returned to Lewis County as the Bearcats new coach in 2006.
“That first game was difficult,” said Wollan, whose team lost 14-7 in 2006. “It was a great game though. They usually are.”
Both squads advanced to the state playoffs that season. The Bearcats lost in the first round, while the Tigers finished second, losing in the championship game to Lynden (14-10).
Jordan Stray was a three-year starter on the offensive line and a senior captain on Centralia’s 2006 team. The Tigers finished the year 11-2 and upset top-ranked Prosser, 37-35, in the semifinals to secure a spot in the finals.
The win over the Mustangs, who were led by current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore, was one of the biggest victories in school history and certainly cause for much celebration, but for Stray, who was a high school All-American in the hammer before going on to compete for the University of Oregon, he holds the regular season win over W.F. West in equal regards.
“The stands were packed. It was an overflow crowd,” said Stray, who is now a teacher and assistant football coach at Tumwater High School. “They lined the track. I just remember running out on the field and how loud it was. It was just a great experience. Growing up in Centralia that was the game you always looked forward to. As a kid you would dream about putting on that jersey and playing against W.F. West.”
The following season in 2007 marked the 100th meeting between the two schools. A special Saturday afternoon kickoff took place.
“That game was amazing,” Wollan said. “Not only were the stands and track packed with people you could see people watching the game from the roof of their houses.”
In attendance was Jamie Weeks, a 1978 Centralia graduate and former teammate of Wollan’s, Weeks was a two-year starter for the Tigers during his junior and senior seasons after moving to Centralia from Arizona.
“When I moved here I didn’t know how big of a game this was,” said Weeks, who has been an assistant at Tumwater for more than 30 years. “You learn pretty fast just how important of a game it is.”
Centralia won the 100th anniversary game, 35-23, and would go on to capture next year’s contest, 21-3.
“I lost the first three games I coached in the series,” Wollan said. “I definitely heard about it from a lot of people.”
Wollan and his Bearcats have held bragging rights, however, since 2009 as W.F. West has won seven consecutive games against Centralia, including last season’s 41-0 victory over the Tigers.
The Bearcats will look to make it eight straight when they travel to Tiger Stadium on October 21 in a key 2A Evergreen Conference matchup.
Undefeated W.F. West (7-0) has shutout its last two opponents, defeating Black Hills (13-0) and Rochester (55-0). Defense has been the Bearcats calling card this season. They have yet to surrender more than two touchdowns in any game and have given up just 59 points on the season.
The Tigers are coming off an impressive victory as well. Centralia (3-3) broke its four-game skid last time out by knocking off Rochester, 42-6.
The top four teams from the EvCo advance to postseason play. W.F. West ends its regular season on October 28 at home against Tumwater, while Tigers face Aberdeen in their seasonal finale.