LA CENTER — La Center is getting pretty good at getting to the state football playoffs.
The Wildcats made it three trips in four years Friday night by rolling to a 48-14 home win over Elma in the 1A district playoffs.
Now, the Wildcats (10-0) aim for their first state playoff win in eight years. They’ll host the winner of tonight’s Meridian-Eatonville qualifier next weekend, either in Kalama or Battle Ground.
“We are looking to get as far as we can,” said senior Tyrone Kulla, who was a freshman on the 2009 team that, like this season, won the Trico League title only to get upset by Nooksack Valley in its state opener.
“This is my senior year, and we’re going to focus on one game at a time and play every play like it’s our last, because it will be my last if we don’t win.”
La Center made quick work of Friday’s game, scoring on its first four possessions and taking advantage of three Elma (4-6) fumbles on special teams to grab a 34-0 lead.
The Wildcats went three-and-out on their opening drive, but Gabe Bunker recovered a muffed punt at midfield. Kulla’s 49-yard run set up a 7-yard TD pass from Dylan King to Jared Huddleston.
LC held Elma on downs at the Wildcats 8, and facing a fourth down of their own at the Elma 44, Conner Fulton burst through the line untouched and rumbled for a touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff rolled to a stop at the 1, and after Brian Maslen picked it up, Kulla stripped the ball from his grasp and Max Hiller fell on it in the end zone to give La Center a 21-0 lead.
“We came out fired up tonight and jumped on them early,” said Fulton, who finished with 136 yards and three TDs on just seven carries. “Whenever you can take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes, it’s always a good thing.”
Wyatt Aguirre made it 28-0 just 85 seconds into the second quarter, following up another muffed punt recovered by Jeremiah Arn with a 58-yard touchdown run.
The Eagles put a scare into La Center by scoring just before halftime, then recovering an onside kick after another touchdown with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
But LC’s defense stiffened, and after getting the ball back on downs, Fulton rumbled 54 yards to paydirt on a fourth-and-11 play to quash the threat.
“We were trying some things, but I was OK with those things not working and them challenging us,” said Wildcats coach John Lambert. “I was never really concerned.”
Aguirre finished with a game-high 143 yards and two TDs on 11 carries. Arn led La Center with nine tackles (two for loss), while Hiller and Bunker added eight tackles apiece.
Kulla also ran for 91 yards, while on defense had an interception and two of LC’s seven pass breakups.
LA CENTER 48, ELMA 14
Elma 0 7 7 0–14
La Center 21 13 7 7–48
LC — Jared Huddleston 7 pass from Dylan King (Conner Wonderly kick)
LC — Conner Fulton 44 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Max Hiller fumble recovery in end zone (Wonderly kick)
LC — Wyatt Aguirre 58 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Fulton 2 run (kick failed)
E — Alex Carrillo 11 pass from Layne Sutten (Reynaldo Ayala kick)
E — Steven Persell 21 pass from Sutten (Ayala kick)
LC — Fulton 54 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Aguirre 1 run (Wonderly kick)
RUSHING — Elma — Brian Maslen 17-77, Todd Swinhart 8-10, Sutten 6-0, team 1-(minus 13). La Center — Aguirre 11-143, Fulton 7-136, Huddleston 6-11, Tyrone Kulla 7-91, King 5-2.
PASSING — Elma — Sutten 19-38-1-224, Swinhart 1-1-0-25. La Center — King 7-15-0-109, Aguirre 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Elma — Carrillo 9-116, Swinhart 6-62, Kevin Farr 3-47, Persell 2-24. La Center — AJ Myers 2-67, Matt Braaten 2-22, Huddleston 1-7, Aguirre 1-9, Fulton 1-4.