Ninth-ranked La Center and sixth-ranked Cascade Christian were tied at one touchdown each going into the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 1A state quarterfinal at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
What happened after that is hard to explain.
The two teams combined to score 62 more points in the fourth quarter and three subsequent overtime periods, before the Wildcats finally prevailed with a 41-35 victory.
It wasn’t the prettiest game ever played, but the effort and resilience shown by both teams was something you don’t see every day.
“It was just a tremendous effort by both teams,” La Center coach John Lambert said. “It came down to inches. You hate to see someone lose a game like this. It’s just tremendous by both teams (with) guys banged up and hurting, and they fought through it.
“If anyone was just to witness this game and just look at the heart of these 16-, 17- and 18-year olds, and the grit, I think it can be a bigger statement on society. This is our future generation. No one quit and everyone gave everything on every single play. I was proud of my team and I know (Cascade Christian head) Coach Davis has to be too of his. They gave it everything they had.”
And the Cougars did. Several times throughout the game it looked like the Cougars were in the driver’s seat and multiple times in the three overtimes it looked as though they were poised to win it, but it was not to be.
“What can you feel but pride?” Davis said. “We showed a ton of heart. We lost a couple of key guys and they were still out there battling. My hat is off to (La Center), they battled hard, too. When they tell you it’s a game of inches, there it is.”
The Cougars and Wildcats were tied at 21 going into the first overtime, but that didn’t last long. La Center senior running back Wyatt Dodson ran for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the extra session and the Wildcats completed a two-point conversion to take a 29-21 lead, but the game was far from over.
Cascade Christian answered with a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Madden Tobeck and the Cougars also completed a two-point conversion to the game at 29 and send it to a second overtime.
Dodson and Tobeck each provided most of the offense for their teams. Dodson ran the ball 37 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns, while Tobeck rushed for 173 yards on 30 carries and also scored three touchdowns.
“Wyatt, he realizes he has 10 other seniors on the field with him that he’s playing with,” Lambert said. “Those guys, they grind and they work. Our goal is to try to move people off the ball, stay low, but stay aggressive. I think staying with that throughout the game let Wyatt to have some opportunities to make some moves and be aggressive, because he’s strong and fast.”
Tobeck had a chance to tie the game and give the Cougars a chance to win in the third overtime, but was tackled at the 1-yard line on a 4th-and-goal from the 5-yard line which ended the game.
“He’s been a warrior all season long, and since the end of last season and in the weight room,” Davis said of Tobeck. He’s one of our big-time leaders, and we’re getting the ball in his hands at the end, he just came up inches short.”
Tobeck scored again, this time on a 16-yard run in the second overtime to give Cascade Christian a 35-29 lead, but the Cougars failed on a two-point conversion. La Center answered back with an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Hayden Williamson to senior Evan Honore. The Wildcats needed just the extra point to win, but it was blocked sending the game into a third overtime.
That’s when Williamson scored what proved to be the game-winner on a 5-yard quarterback keeper to end Cascade Christian’s season.
Stats highlights: Dodson rushed 37 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns; Williamson was 13 for 24 through the air for 195 yards and two touchdowns and one rushing touchdown; and Jackson Leslie caught six passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
Next Up: A1 semifinals
La Center vs. Meridian, 4 p.m., Nov. 25 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
— The Reflector contributed to this article