Listening to his players during their run through the Class 1A district soccer playoffs, La Center coach Reece Scragg knew his Wildcats had the right mindset.
“I heard them say ‘Attack wins games, defense wins championships,’ ” Scragg said. “That’s something we try to instill in the boys, so it was nice to hear them say that.”
Then the Wildcats went out and proved it.
Notching their third consecutive shutout, La Center scored a 2-0 win over Toledo-Winlock United to capture the 1A district championship on Saturday at King’s Way Christian High School.
“On defense, we’ve got to work,” Scragg said. “It’s postseason and no game is easy. The scorelines might say otherwise, but we worked. Three postseason games, three shutouts, 11 goals in those games. They worked really hard for that.”
The La Center offense helped the defesne by bringing early pressure, resulting in a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute on a free kick from 25 yards out by junior Hunter Leach.
“We spoke about Toledo,” Scragg said. “We know how good they are. They allowed six goals in the regular season. That’s amazing. We knew we had to start the game right and we sure did that.”
Even after Leach’s early goal, the Wildcats continued to the pressure, forcing United goalkeeper Alan Contreras to make five saves, while La Center keeper Alex Moulton hardly touched the ball at all.
“We were just trying to play our game,” Leach said. “A lot of the times we get focused all the other stuff going on, the trash-talk and the players on the other team. We wanted to focus on our game today.”
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead into the intermission, then struck again early in the second half on a header by Ian Crocker that was set up by a free kick from Leach with his brother, freshman Brendon Leach running a little misdirection.
“With my brother, since he’s left-footed, I knew that we could do some kind of trick play to get them off-balanced with something unexpected,” Hunter Leach said. “So he ran out, I fake-passed it to him, and they ran out a little bit. It left Ian wide open. I found his head, he finished it really well.”
Both teams were assured of hosting first-round games at state on Tuesday or Wednesday. With the victory Saturday, the Wildcats won’t have to leave Southwest Washington for the first round or quarterfinals. In the first round, La Center will open against Seattle Academy, the No. 4 team from Districts 1-2.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence now, which is all you can ask for,” Scragg said.