LA CENTER — There John Lambert stood, not as La Center’s head football coach, but for a brief time on this June day, he was John Lambert the scout-team quarterback.
It was at the Wildcats’ team camp in Shoreline this past summer when Lambert got the sneak peek into what so many have now seen all throughout the 2017 season.
Arms flaring with a wide wingspan to match. A long frame exploding off a 3-point stance. Lambert, still playing scout-team quarterback, couldn’t escape this imposing defensive end and the tallest lineman he’s ever coached, and it made the 19th-year coach at La Center realize just what kind of season awaited one of his own.
“There’s something special here,” Lambert thought.
It was Wyatt Siebert, who at 6-foot-7 and approaching 200 pounds, answers to the nickname “the Mad Stork” given by Lambert since his style of play reminds him of Pro Football Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks.
Siebert, though, is a recent La Center transplant with a farming background that includes pig breeding and wears cowboy boots by day, and sports goggles by game nights.
And on a senior-laden team with the largest senior class in program history, Siebert worked to way to where he is today, helping anchor a beefy defensive line which features 1A Trico League MVP Jack Hiller (6-5, 250) and Dayton Erickson (6-3, 265).
As for Siebert? He earned the 1A Trico League’s co-defensive player of the year honor to help La Center (9-2) get back to the Class 1A state quarterfinals for the second straight season. The Wildcats face Cascade Christian (10-1) Saturday at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium looking to make it back-to-back state semifinal appearances for the first time in program history. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.
Lambert admitted the expectations for Siebert’s second year in the program were simply to be a defensive contributor in an already stacked senior class.
But what he got was a welcoming surprise from Siebert, whose 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks this season are both team-bests.
La Center swept all the all-Trico awards (league MVP, offensive player of the year, defensive co-players of the year, and coach of the year) selected by the league’s coaches.
Siebert shared the defensive honor with teammate Evan Honore.
When the teen arrived in La Center as a junior in late August 2016 from Goldendale, a town of 3,400 in Klickitat County, he hadn’t played football in a year, and wasn’t sure he would his final two years of high school, either.
But that was before he was introduced to Lambert after registering for classes the week school began. Like he does every year, Lambert gives no pressure to new players who want to give football a shot, and Siebert was no different as a new arrival.
“If you’re coming to La Center,” Lambert said, “we’re welcoming you as part of the famIly. I want kids to feel that way.”
Siebert visited one practice. He spoke with coaches. He watched and observed. What impressed Siebert most about the Wildcats was how the players bonded with each other, he said. He was never used to that.
“It was nice,” Siebert said. “You don’t really have that a lot in most teams, or at least, where I came from.”
He was sold on football and on the Wildcats. Despite no spring ball, no summer team camp, and no preseason workouts, Siebert was in a game by Week 3.
He experienced a state playoff game for the first time in 2016, which helped fueled his fire for what’s turned out to be an unforgettable senior season.
Turning out for football turned out for the best.
“Just for that one day meeting the coach and going through a practice was probably the best thing I could’ve done,” Siebert said.
Hiller, a two-way starting lineman, could sense what was coming from his new teammate toward the end of last season and this past summer. Even with Siebert’s size, his quickness allows him to explode off the ball faster than most.
“He goes right through you,” said Hiller, a starting offensive guard and nose guard. “He side-steps you and is behind you before you know it. That’s not something you get from a lineman all the time.”
He might be the new kid in town, but it didn’t take long for Siebert to prove himself at La Center.
“He’s taken that and ran with it,” Hiller said, “and he’s making the most of every play.”