Why else would Chris Paulson have come to Curtis High School?
In the former Washington State University football player’s first game as the school’s coach, his team started fast, fizzled in the middle and finished with a furious rally — scoring four consecutive touchdowns behind quarterback Gage Ferguson — to turn a 17-point deficit into a 35-24 victory against visiting Kentwood.
“This is why I’m here,” Paulson said. “This is why you come to Curtis High School is to be in games like this.”
Ferguson had 119 of his 122 rushing yards in the second half, jump-starting Curtis’ comeback from a 24-7 deficit with a 15-yard touchdown run near the end of the third quarter.
Tristan Beard then hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch from Ferguson on Curtis’ next drive for a 27-yard touchdown on fourth-and-15 before the senior quarterback sealed the victory with a 38-yard run on third down with 46 seconds left in the game.
Ferguson was also 8 of 17 passing for 159 yards.
“I haven’t done anything like that since probably the fourth grade,” said an adrenaline-filled Ferguson. “I can’t even describe it, to be honest. It’s just amazing. I feel great.”
Curtis played fast — no huddles, no breaks — and struck fast, with Beard securing a 35-yard reception followed by 7-yard touchdown catch from Ferguson in the first quarter.
But then it was all Kentwood.
It took the Conquerors two plays to tie it up, with Brian Campbell throwing 47 yards to Connor Benson for a touchdown.
Andre Slyter’s 28-yard field goal, a 54-yard pass from Campbell to Grant Stockman, and Campbell’s 4-yard TD run had the game looking like it could be a blowout for first-year Kentwood coach Mike Bush, who, like Pauslon, is also a former WSU football player. He was also an all-Pac-10 basketball player.
Only it didn’t hold up.
Kentwood’s next three possessions: An interception, a three-and-out, and then a fumble.
Bush said he was to blame for poor play-calling.
“I take full responsibility for us not moving the ball in the second half,” Bush said. “It was just our offense not making some plays and them making plays and keeping our defense on the field. I think our defense made some good plays, but they played a lot.”
Beard had the interception for Curtis and also finished with 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His pick changed the momentum of the game.
But Ferguson was the one who kept it going.
“For me, I saw all (Ferguson’s) confidence go way up in the second half,” Beard said. “He took control of the offense.”
Said Paulson: “Our kids are great kids. They have got great character. I think when you get in tight games, it’s the kids with great character that make the difference.”
C – Tristan Beard 7 pass from Gage Ferguson (Robert Griffin III kick)
K – Connor Benson 47 pass from Brian Campbell (Andre Slyter)
K – Slyter 28 field goal
K – Grant Stockman 54 pass from Campbell (Slyter kick)
K – Campbell 4 run (Slyter kick)
C – Ferguson 15 run (Griffin kick)
C – Beard 27 pass from Ferguson (Griffin kick)
C – Donnell Diego 1 run (Griffin kick)
C – Ferguson 38 run (Griffin kick)
Rushing — Kentwood: Chavez Kalua-Fuimaono 15-83; Isaiah Williams 10-65; Brian Campbell 5-17, TD; Curtis: Gage Ferguson 18-122, TD; Donnell Diego 24-78, TD.
Passing — Kentwood: Brian Campbell 10-15-2-138, 2 TDs; Curtis: Gage Ferguson 8-17-0-159, 2 TDs.
Receiving — Kentwood: Grant Stockman 1-54, TD; Connor Benson 1-47, TD; Isaiah Williams 6-22; Curtis: