Emotions ran high at La Center High School this past Saturday after a senior-heavy team of Wildcats lost to the Connell Eagles 17-7 in the first round of the 1A State Football Tournament.
The game started off with some bad luck for the Wildcats as sophomore starter Bryten Schmitz went out with an injury in the first drive of the game.
“Not having Bryant on that offense and defense — he’s arguably one of the best players in our league — hurt,” Head Coach John Lambert said after the game.
He said a lot of players stepped up after the injuries La Center endured.
Despite losing Schmitz, the Wildcats held the Eagles to a scoreless first quarter and one touchdown and a field goal in the second. The Wildcats went into halftime down 10-0.
“They (the Wildcats) didn’t let something bad happen affect the next play,” Lambert said. “I thought it was impressive, that form of neutral thinking and not letting the last action affect the next action.”
The Wildcats came out of halftime strong with Darren Cepeda picking up large kickoff return on the first play of the half. After a few punts, and a scoreless third quarter, the Wildcats put the ball in the endzone with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run from quarterback Tom Lambert.
But that would be the end of scoring for the Wildcats as a failed conversion of fourth down and nine with three minutes left gave Connell the ball and an opportunity for another touchdown. The game ended 17-7.
“Out here (on the football field) you have to earn everything,” Lambert said. “You have to earn everything, and even if you bust your tail and do everything right, you still may not earn it. That’s something difficult to teach in high school.”
Lambert said he is “immensely proud” of this team of Wildcats and feels that the team had a “great group of seniors.”
“They (the seniors) spent a lot of time in the weight room working hard for moments like this,” Lambert said. “After only winning four games last year and coming out and getting 10 wins this year, I think it speaks volumes to their leadership.”
Lambert concluded by stating that he “feels for the kids on the team” because this might be the last time they get to “put on the pads.”
“Every other sport you can play at an adult level,” he said. “Tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, but not football.”
About midway through the season, Lambert won his 150th game with the Wildcats after a game against King’s Way Christian. This was his 21st year as head coach at La Center High School.
Other State Football updates
A historic season for the Prairie Falcons ended on Friday after a 37-30 overtime loss to undefeated Marysville-Pilchuck. The game was back and forth for all minutes of play on a foggy field in Marysville, with Marysville-Pilchuck scoring in the first quarter and Prairie firing right back in the first few seconds on the second. Near the end of the game, the Falcons were 25 seconds away from heading to the quarterfinals until Marysville-Pilchuck scored a field goal as the clock expired in regulation. Sending the game into overtime.
After going 9-2 overall in the regular season, a tie for the best record set for Prairie (1985), the Falcons went to the state playoffs for the first time since 1992, a historic start for second-year head coach Mike Peck. Earlier this year, Peck said the team was “trying to get better each day, that’s the key.”
Peck found the season to be “incredible” and “unforgettable.”
In his first year as head coach of the Spudders, Scott Rice led the team to its first state berth since 2005.
“With 14 years in the game of football and coming from Skyview where every year we made the playoffs, I was really happy we didn’t miss (this year),” Rice said.
The Spudders lost in the first round of state 42-21 to Steilacoom at Mount Tahoma High School on Friday, Nov. 15.
Despite the loss, Rice said he was “super proud of the kids this year.”
“We had an amazing group of young men,” he said. “We were proud three of our four lossess this year were from teams that won their division (La Center, Hockinson and Prairie).”
At the start of the year, Rice said he had plans to use powerhouse senior Hunter Abrams to the teams advantage, a plan that worked out for the team.
“He was a workhorse for us all year,” Rice said. “We asked a lot of him and he provided a lot as the team. He’s just an amazing young kid. He works his butt off in the weight room.”
As for Rice’s future, he said he’s excited to be in Ridgefield and “loves the town.”
“I have every intention to building Ridgefield into a powerhouse in Southwest Washington,” he said. “It’s every coach’s dream when you take over a head job when they take over is to take those league titles.”
The Hockinson Hawks are on their way to the state quarterfinals this weekend after a 21-15 win over Ellensburg at District Stadium in Battle Ground on Saturday. The team will play Lakewood at an, as of press deadline, undetermined time and location this weekend.
The Hawks, back-to-back state champions for the past two years, have a 10-1 overall record after their first loss since 2016 earlier this year to Archbishop-Murphy. Despite losing star senior and University of Washington commit Sawyer Racanelli to an injury this year, Head Coach Rick Steele said the team is “full of good seniors.”
Steele celebrated his 100th win with the program earlier this year.