LA CENTER — The La Center Wildcats had shown they could run and pass the ball through the first three weeks of the high school football season.
Friday night, they showed their nasty side on defense.
The Wildcats harrassed the quarterback, picked off passes, recovered fumbles, and pretty much stuffed the Castle Rock offense in a 28-3 Trico League victory at La Center Middle School.
The Wildcats (4-0) needed that defense, too, because the offense took more than a half to get in gear. Castle Rock (2-2) led 3-0 at the break, but after a Jared Huddleston interception to end the Rockets’ opening drive of the second half, it was all La Center in every aspect of the game.
“We had to scractch and crawl and not give up an inch,” noseguard Andre Obot said, noting a halftime talk by the coaches did the trick. “We really took that to heart and stepped it up.”
Huddleston would finish with two interceptions, and he also scored the first two touchdowns, 7-yard scoring runs for a 14-3 lead. He said he could not choose which side of the ball he preferred on this night.
“The touchdowns because those put points on the board, and the interceptions because those can turn the game around,” he said.
True and true.
Castle Rock’s opening drive of the second half lasted 12 plays and 58 yards before Huddleston got his first pick. The Rockets did not get a first down on their next five possessions — two punts, a lost fumble, and two more interceptions.
“That’s impressive,” said Obot, who hit Castle Rock quarterback Cale Johnson several times throughout the night. “I’m impressed with how well we tightened up our defense.”
By the time the Rockets got another first down, the Wildcats had scored 28 unanswered points.
Huddleston’s first touchdown came with 14 seconds left in the third quarter. He got his other one four minutes later for the 11-point advantage.
“We really talked during halftime,” said defensive end Jeremiah Arn. “We got mad. We weren’t really playing like we were supposed to in the first half.”
Arn had a strip and fumble recovery in the first half for the Wildcats. In the second half, he forced a fumble in the Castle Rock backfield and then held the ball carrier away from the football as he waited for his teammates to get there. Josh McNeal came out of the pile with the ball. Four plays later, Wyatt Aguirre caught a touchdown pass from Dylan King for a 21-3 lead.
A.J. Myers capped the scoring with a 37-yard TD pass from King.
Defensive tackle Jacob Mendez also was a force for the Wildcats, who held Castle Rock to 87 yards rushing — with 38 of those coming in the game’s final five plays.
“We were down oh-three, and that had never happened before,” Mendez said. “We’re usually a strong first-half team. But we’re a stronger second-half team. I knew we’d come out with intensity. That really helped us.”
La Center coach John Lambert gave credit to the Rockets for their effort, especially in the first half when the Wildcats looked off their game. Lambert said halftime helped his team re-focus.
“I have a lot of seniors and juniors who have been in games like this,” Lambert said. “There was a sense of urgency in the second half that we did not have in the first half.”
Castle Rock’s Mikel Skreen made a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter. La Center, at the time, had one first down through its first four possessions.
The Wildcats would finish the game with 17 first downs. La Center had 238 yards of offense in the second half, after gaining 115 in the first half.
King and his receivers struggled in completion percentage, but they made up for it with yards per reception. King finished 7 of 21 for 184 yards. Conner Fulton led La Center in rushing with 82 yards on 16 carries. Huddleston had 63 yard on 13 carries and his two scores.
“We have the best of both worlds,” Huddleston said. “We can run and we can throw this season.”
The Wildcats can also get a little nasty on defense.
Especially when it was needed.
LA CENTER 28, CASTLE ROCK 3
Castle Rock 0 3 0 0—3
La Center 0 0 7 21—28
CR — Mikel Skreen 33 FG
LC — Jared Huddleston 7 run (Conner Wonderly kick)
LC — Jared Huddleston 7 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Wyatt Aguirre 18 pass from Dylan King (Wonderly kick)
LC — A.J. Myers 37 pass from King (Wonderly kick)
RUSHING — Castle Rock: Levi Godinho 14-25, Chase Lam 2-8, Austin Moore 7-(-13) Pacer Said 2-25, Cale Johnson 3-4, A.J. Lien 2-18, Dylan Libby 3-20; La Center: Connor Fulton 16-82, Taylor Dreyer 1-3, Huddleston 13-63, Tyrone Kulla 3-2, King 4-1, Aguirre 2-16, Max Hiller 1-3.
PASSING — Castle Rock: Johnson 8-21-3-88; La Center: King 7-21-1-184.
RECEIVING — Castle Rock: Moore 2-18, Skreen 1-25, Said 2-17, Blake West 1-11, Jacob Rahn 1-15, Godinho 1-2; La Center: Fulton 1-6, Gabe Bunker 2-58, Huddleston 1-24, Matt Braaten 1-41, Aguirre 1-18, Myers 1-37.