LA CENTER — It did not matter what number La Center senior Conner Fulton wore Friday night.
A tear in his No. 33 jersey forced him into switch to 29 at halftime, but in either, he was too much for the Woodland defense to handle.
Fulton ran for 189 yards and four touchdowns as the Wildcats wrapped up their third consecutive Trico League championship with a 52-21 victory over the Beavers in a matchup of two top-five unbeatens at La Center Middle School.
“We just played hard-nosed football today,” Fulton said. “Our offense picked it up and got focused when the time came.”
That time came after the Beavers (8-1, 7-1) closed the gap to 31-21 on Eli Whitmire’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
The Wildcats (9-0, 8-0) answered with a 12-play, 81-yard drive that ate up 7 1/2 minutes off the clock and ended with Fulton bulling his way into the end zone from the 2.
“Our kids take pride in getting those eight-minute drives,” said LC coach John Lambert. “That was a critical drive for us. If we falter on that, this game was wide-open.”
Instead, it turned into a rout as the fifth-ranked Wildcats earned the Trico’s No. 1 seed into next week’s district playoffs. They will host Elma (5-4), which dropped to the Evergreen No. 4 seed after losing to Montesano on Friday, in a rematch of last year’s district playoffs.
“This is amazing,” said senior Conner Wonderly, who scored three first-half touchdowns and capped the win with a late interception. “It was a great team effort. We had a great game plan, controlled the ball and did what we wanted to do.”
Woodland, ranked No. 2 coming into the game, will play Rochester. (It was later announced the game will be played at Kalama High School at 7 p.m. Friday.)
“This was an eye-opener,” Woodland quarterback Hunter Huddleston said. “They punched us in the mouth tonight. We’re still a good football team, but we’re not as good as we thought.”
The Beavers struck first, with Huddleston scoring on an 8-yard run, only to see La Center take advantage of Woodland mistakes to score the next 23 points.
The Wildcats tied it on the their next possession, with Wonderly taking a handoff from Fulton on a reverse and scoring on a 29-yard run.
The Beavers fumbled on their next possession, and La Center cashed in with Wonderly capping a nine-play drive with a 20-yard scoring run.
Woodland fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and despite holding deep in its own territory, back-to-back sacks led to a safety and a 16-7 Wildcats lead.
After the free kick, Wonderly caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Aguirre.
“They definitely took advantage of their opportunities,” Huddleston said. “They were good at hitting us when we were down.”
Correction: Woodland’s playoff matchup has been updated. The Beavers will play Rochester on Friday at Kalama High School.
LA CENTER 52, WOODLAND 21
Woodland 7 7 7 0–21
La Center 7 24 7 14–52
W — Hunter Huddleston 8 run (Dillan Beckwith kick)
LC — Conner Wonderly 29 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Wonderly 20 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Safety, H.Huddleston sacked in end zone
LC — Wonderly 33 pass from Wyatt Aguirre (Wonderly kick)
W — Vince Nigro 35 pass from H.Huddleston (Beckwith kick)
LC — Conner Fulton 10 run (Jacob Livingston run)
W — Eli Whitmire 1 run (Beckwith kick)
LC — Fulton 2 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Fulton 5 run (Wonderly kick)
LC — Fulton 9 run (Wonderly kick)
RUSHING — Woodland, H.Huddleston 15-82, Whitmire 8-44, Nigro 2-14, team 1-(minus 1). La Center, Fulton 33-189, Aguirre 12-95, Wonderly 4-48, Max Hiller 3-69, Matt Braaten 1-4, team 4-(minus 5).
PASSING — Woodland, H.Huddleston 12-18-3-162. La Center, Aguirre 1-2-0-33.
RECEIVING — Woodland, Nigro 4-68, Trevor Huddleston 4-40, Logan Piper 2-27, Troy Flanagan 1-12, Whitmire 1-15. La Center, Wonderly 1-33.