SIOUX CITY | West's hopes for a rare 3-1 start to the football season were dashed early Friday at Olsen Stadium.
Instead, it was visiting Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson winning for the third time in four starts this season, using a punishing and relentless rushing attack to smash the Wolverines 56-21.
Cameron Lukavsky set the tone early, racing 72 yards on Thomas Jefferson's third offensive play of the game. The Yellowjackets went on to have a field day in the first half, rushing for an astounding 406 of their 604 yards while zipping to a 43-7 halftime cushion.
Cameron Baker, a 6-2 junior, was virtually unstoppable, rambling for 340 yards and five touchdowns. Baker had an eye-popping 244 yards and four scores by intermission. Just for good measure, he nearly covered the length of the field on his only carry of the second half, sprinting 96 yards to paydirt.
“My line made big holes and I just found them and then we got our offense rolling,” said Baker, who racked up his huge total on 17 carries. “It feels great to do into district play 3-1. Some of the teams are looking at us now as contenders and we have a good chance at the playoffs.”
The game got off to a rather inauspicious start for Tee Jay with a fumble on its first offensive snap that was recovered by West's Drake Coupland at the Yellowjackets' 14-yard line. West, though, went nowhere on four plays and turned it over on downs.
Two plays later Lukavsky – who added 142 yards on six carries – swept around left end for the first of six Thomas Jefferson touchdowns in the first half. Nine different Yellowjackets ended up carrying the football as they ground out 600-plus in 41 totes.
The mood turned somber for West when Dustin Saia, one of the team's top offensive performers this season, was injured while making a tackle on Baker after a 60-yard dash early in the second quarter. Saia lay motionless on the field while being attended to and was eventually taken away in an ambulance.
“We struggled early and we worried about it all week with homecoming,” West Coach Joe Schmitz said. “There was a lot of energy about the football game and I think the guys kind of fed into it. I'm not going to say they weren't focused, they just didn't make the plays when they could have early and it got away from us.”
At that time the score was 14-0, but things got much worse for the Wolverines after that. The only bright spot in the first half was a 13-yard touchdown pass from Adien Belt to Connor James. By that time, however, Thomas Jefferson had mounted a 36-0 lead.
Belt threw another touchdown pass in the second half, a 28-yarder to Nick Puente. Micah McWell added a 6-yard scoring run. Belt completed 7 of 17 passes for 128 yafds and McWell rushed for a teak-high 56 yards on 10 carries.
Not only did the one-sided loss put a damper on homecoming festivities, West (2-2) was trying to start a season 3-1 for the first time since the 1993 campaign. The 1972 Wolverines also won three of their first four.
“We have to get better up front,” Schmitz said. “Kory (Woodruff) did a great job in the middle, he was getting three or four guys at him at a time, but we have to keep growing as a team, get bigger in the weight room and we'll compete with them.”
Fortunately, the preliminary report on Saia was that he wasn't injured seriously, but rather taken from the field as a precaution.
West has little time to feel sorry for itself because the Wolverines travel to top-ranked West Des Moines Dowling on Friday.