About five weeks ago, somebody flipped a switch for the Central Valley Bears.
It started the Monday following the Bears’ last loss, 41-28 to Gonzaga Prep, in a players-only meeting.
“We had a team meeting after the Prep game,” Central Valley quarterback Gaven Deyarmin said. “We sat down everyone on our team, whether it was a (junior varsity) player or a varsity player, and we said ‘We’ve been talking about going far in the playoffs all year, there’s no reason it doesn’t start now.’ ”
Central Valley has been riding momentum since, and Friday the Bears dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in a 23-7 win over the defending State 4A champion Ferris Saxons in a first-round playoff game at Joe Albi Stadium.
The Bears (9-2), winners of five straight games, will meet the winner of today’s Mead-Skyline matchup in the quarterfinals next week.
CV owned time of possession and total yards in the first half, but the Bears managed just a 9-7 lead going into halftime – much like the first game between the teams when Ferris trailed 10-7 before winning 28-10.
The Bears’ defense pitched a second-half shutout this time, suffocating the Saxons’ career rushing leader, running back Kole Heidinger. He finished with just 20 yards on 12 carries.
After a scoreless third quarter, CV added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on 23- and 16-yard runs by Alex Jacot.
“They just outplayed us in all phases of the game,” Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said. “They were more physical up front and they made plays.”
CV had 322 yards total offense. More important, the Bears limited Ferris to 154.
“Our defense is just relentless,” said Jacot, a two-way starter at running back and linebacker. “We call them the ‘honey badger.’ Look it up on YouTube. We knew we were going to take care of business tonight.”
CV shut out Columbia Basin Big Nine champ Chiawana last week 24-0.
“We’ve been playing hard the last two weeks,” CV coach Rick Giampietri said. “They have really come through. We’re outhitting people.”
Giampietri had particular praise for offensive coordinator Rick Sloan and defensive coordinator Steve Kent.
“They’re doing a great job,” Giampietri said.
CV hurt Ferris repeatedly with the quarterback draw in the first half. Deyarmin finished with 91 yards rushing on 19 attempts and he completed 8 of 18 passes for 146. Jacot added 81 on 18 carries.
Deyarmin ran more Friday than he has since earlier in the season.
“We talked about why not have three running backs instead of two this week,” Deyarmin said. “We did it a lot earlier in the season. We kind of went away from it. Not necessarily by design. We were doing other things pretty good. This game we put it back in. The line gave me some great holes to run through.”
Deyarmin has noticed a discernible difference in the Bears in recent weeks.
“Our practices have had a lot of fire,” he said. “Our defense is playing awesome. The defensive line, they’re tearing teams up that are a lot bigger than them. Our linebackers, you can’t say enough about them. They’re making plays all over. And our (defensive backs) are coming to play every day.”
“In the end, their defense won the game for them like it has the last few weeks,” Sharkey said.
Giampietri has noticed a different team, too.
“All of our guys are playing like it’s their last play,” Giampietri said. “We’ve almost been in that realm for three weeks now.”
It’s the first time CV has been in the quarterfinals since 2008.
“It’s so sweet,” Jacot said. “We’ve been waiting for this since 2008.”
CV played almost flawlessly.
“We’re blocking better,” Giampietri said. “We’re attacking more. We’re hittin’ and hustlin’ – that’s kind of been the key.”
Jacot summed it up well.
“We wanted this one more than they did apparently,” he said.