WOODLAND — Tanner Dreyer sits so far down La Center’s tailback depth chart, coach John Lambert wasn’t even sure where Dreyer slotted in.
“He’s No. 5,” Lambert said. An assistant then corrected him. “No, he’s No. 6.”
Wherever Dreyer slotted in before Friday night, he likely moved up a few notches after his 160-yard effort helped propel the ninth-ranked Wildcats to a 49-12 victory over Forks in a District 4 Class 1A playoff game at Beaver Stadium.
La Center (8-2) won its eighth straight to get back to the state playoffs for the second straight year and sixth time in seven seasons. The Wildcats, who also beat Forks a year ago in the district round, will face another familiar foe in Round 1 next weekend — Mount Baker, which routed King’s 45-15 in its district playoff.
La Center and Mount Baker (7-3) met in the quarterfinals last season — a 25-13 Wildcats victory — and have squared off five times previously in the playoffs.
“The mindset is one week at a time right now,” said senior Evan Honore, who ran for 80 yards and had a team-high nine tackles. “There’s no need to look ahead. We need to take every team seriously.”
Dreyer, normally a backup fullback for La Center, rocketed up the chart when Lambert decided to rest his top two tailbacks — Wyatt Dodson (ankle) and Collin Namanny (shoulder) — and hope for the best.
“He was the next man up,” Lambert said of Dreyer, who had only one carry all season before Friday night. “If things had gone sideways, maybe they would have played. But from what we’d seen of Tanner in practice, I was encouraged that he could do the job.”
Dreyer admitted to having a few butterflies before the game, but runs of 11 and 28 yards on La Center’s opening drive helped calm the nerves.
“I expected to put in some work for the team,” said Dreyer, who finished off his night with a 38-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. “They came in injured tonight, so I had to step up for them. My line blocked for me, opened up some holes, and got me some yardage.”
Dreyer led a running attack that rolled up 369 yards and ground out 19 first downs against an overmatched Forks (6-4) defense.
Honore capped La Center’s opening drive with a 16-yard TD run. Colton Dolezal added two short touchdown runs, and quarterback Hayden Williamson chipped in 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“We knew coming into the week Wyatt and Collin were banged up, and we didn’t want to risk anything in this game,” Honore said. “We had full confidence in Tanner, and we knew that we had other weapons in our back pocket.”
The Wildcats defense also got into the scoring fun by returning two Forks turnovers for touchdowns. Thomas Dreyer took back an interception 49 yards for a score, and Clint Smith returned a fumble 26 yards to the end zone on the final play of the third quarter.
LA CENTER 49, FORKS 12
Forks 0 6 0 6–12
La Center 14 14 14 7–49
LC — Evan Honore 16 run (Sean Fox kick)
LC — Colton Dolezal 2 run (Fox kick)
F — Caleb Peters 1 run (pass failed)
LC — Dolezal 1 run (Fox kick)
LC — Hayden Williamson 33 run (Fox kick)
LC — Thomas Dreyer 49 interception return (Fox kick)
LC — Clint Smith 26 fumble return (Fox kick)
LC — Tanner Dreyer 38 run (Fox kick)
F — Cole Baysiner 67 run (run failed)
RUSHING: Forks, Brett Moody 11-47, Baysinger 9-104, Peters 8-29, Colby Demorest 3-(minus 4), Keith Thompson 2-(minus 5), Cort Prose 1-0. La Center, Ta.Dreyer 19-160, Williamson 10-71, Tom Lambert 9-18, Dolezal 5-22, Honore 4-80, Tucker Harrington 2-16, Th.Dreyer 1-4, Clay Roberts 1-0, team 2-(minus 2).
PASSING: Forks, Moody 5-17-2-39. La Center, Williamson 3-8-0-22, Lambert 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Forks, Baysinger 2-12, Gabriel Terrones 2-20, Prose 1-7. La Center, Honore 2-12, Jackson Leslie 1-10.