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Football: Gervais pounds Willamina for first win

Nikita Kalugin rushes for four touchdowns


by: PHIL HAWKINS - Members of the Gervais football team thanked the crowd at the David Miller Memorial Field after their first victory of the year Friday night.The Gervais and Willamina football teams entered last Friday’s league contest as the last two winless teams in the West Valley Conference. The Cougars emphatically made sure that they left the contest as the better team, using a bruising running game and an opportunistic defense to pull away from the Bulldogs in the second half for a 27-12 victory.

Unlike Willamina (1-7, 0-5 West Valley), Gervais (1-6, 1-5) came into the game with a winless record in six games. In fact, the last Cougar victory came in 2011, giving the team extra incentive to snap a losing streak that spanned 18 games and parts of three different seasons.

But as the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and Gervais followed that adage to a T in a game that pitted two offenses that were near opposites of each other.

On one side of the ball was the Cougars’ run-based game that steadily gained ground through long, deliberate drives. Gervais opened the game with a six-minute drive that was capped on a sweep play to junior Nikita Kalugin for a touchdown to make it 7-0 in favor of the Cougars. In total, Gervais held the ball for 18:19 in the first half compared to just 5:41 of possession time for Willamina, but the Bulldogs didn’t need to hold the ball for long to score.

Willamina’s spread-option offense relied on a variety of shovel passes, reverses and flea flickers to catch the Cougars off guard for big plays that culminated in a pair of touchdowns in the first half. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, the Bulldogs used a 45-yard shovel pass to kick off an 82-yard touchdown drive that took just under three minutes to complete.

Gervais stopped the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, to hold onto a 7-6 lead. The Cougars then began another methodical march down the field over the next seven minutes for a second touchdown run by Kalugin to make it 14-6 with 2:39 left in the half.

Willamina answered back in just under two minutes, but again failed to convert for two, as the Cougars enjoyed a 14-12 lead after two quarters.

After a halftime dedication to rename the football field in honor of Dave Miller, a former Gervais city councilor and assistant football coach who passed away in February, the Cougars kicked off to Willamina to start the third quarter. But the Bulldogs were hardly able to start their drive before giving up the ball on an interception that was picked off at the line by Gervais senior Adam Jaramillo.

The Cougars drove to the five yard line, but were pushed back on the next four plays and turned the ball over on downs near the goal line. Willamina moved the ball on the ensuing possession, but Gervais sniffed out a double-reverse on a fourth-and-six play to stop the Bulldogs and regain control. It was one of four fourth down stops for the Gervais defense in the second half.

As the Cougars started their drive, Kalugin took the first snap of the fourth quarter 65 yards on a sweep to the left side of the field to put the team up 20-12 after the extra point was no good. The teams traded possessions for the final quarter before Kalugin added his fourth touchdown of the night with three minutes left in the game to make it 27-12 in favor of the Cougars.

Gervais is set to end the 2013 season this Friday when it travels to Amity (3-4, 2-3) to take on the Warriors. Amity won last year’s contest, but Gervais claimed a win over the Warriors in 2011 in the final game before the team’s 18-game losing streak. That streak was technically broken in a 26-21 victory over Vernonia, but the win was vacated and marked as a forfeit due to an ineligible player.