LA CENTER — There is a lot of local history in Jack Hiller’s football story.
He grew up in La Center, watching the high school team play, hoping one day to put on the varsity uniform of the Wildcats.
His older brother Max played for the Wildcats, too.
The Hiller brothers, family, friends, they knew all about the 2003 La Center football team, the only one in program history to make it to state semifinals.
This weekend, Jack Hiller, a dominant offensive and defensive lineman, has a chance to make more memories for his town, his school. La Center will take on Mount Baker of Deming at 6 p.m. Saturday at Woodland High School in the Class 1A quarterfinals.
“I would imagine there would be a huge celebration in La Center,” Hiller said, explaining what a win would mean. “Our group would go down in history. That would be a really cool deal.”
In many ways, Hiller already has made quite a name for himself.
John Lambert has been at La Center since 1997, becoming the head coach in 1999. He knows a thing or two about this program.
“He’s our best offensive lineman we’ve ever had and arguably one of our best defensive linemen,” Lambert said.
Hiller is a nose tackle. And while there might have been some impressive defensive ends in Lambert’s time, he cannot think of anyone from the interior line who can match Hiller’s abilities.
“On the inside, he’s the best we’ve ever had.”
Hiller, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 240-pound junior, appeared a bit overwhelmed when he heard his coach’s comments.
“It’s a huge honor,” Hiller said. “He’s seen a lot of players. Knowing who he’s seen and where I’m trying to work up to, that’s a motivator. I’m just trying to keep it up.”
This does not surprise anyone associated with the family, though. Jack’s father, Chris Hiller, is a Fort Vancouver graduate who played for Washington State.
And Jack Hiller has been excelling at the game as long as Lambert has known him.
“I remember when he was in our youth camp, in third grade. I was thinking then, this might be our first Division-I player from La Center … as me as the head coach,” Lambert said. “Even back then, there was something special about him.”
Hiller has plenty of time to figure out a college football program, but one thing is certain: He won’t have any trouble getting into college. He carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
“It’s all about consistency,” Hiller said. “Every night, you put in a little bit of time and turn in every single assignment. After that, it’s not that hard. If you use your class time wisely, it makes it easy.”
If it were that easy, though, anybody could do it. Lambert wants the best for Hiller for a number of reasons, but one is to show the rest of his players all the benefits of a true student-athlete.
“Everything … you’d want in a player,” Lambert said. “Incredible work ethic. Works all the time. Never takes a play off. Offseason, everything, in the weight room, working hard. A 4.0 student. Sets a great example. What else could you ask?”
Hiller is thinking about his future, as well. This winter, his plan is to focus on getting stronger with a daily workout regimen. He is not sure he wants to go to a huge college football program, but he definitely wants to keep all of his options open.
Of course, he is hoping he has a couple more weeks of his junior season of high school football. La Center has won 10 in a row since a Week 1 loss to Hockinson. The Wildcats are on a roll.
But now, there is another playoff game against Mount Baker. La Center lost to Mount Baker in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Max Hiller played on those teams.
“We have a history with them,” Jack Hiller said. “It’s kind of a family matter. Everyone is excited for this game.”
Not all this history is bad for La Center. The Wildcats did beat Mount Baker on the way to the semifinals back in 2003.
Now that is the kind of story Jack Hiller and the Wildcats want to tell years from now.