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News / Sports / Prep Sports

La Center finds perspective in season-ending 33-21 loss to Elma

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: November 2, 2018, 11:38pm

LA CENTER — Standing in front of a weepy-eyed group moments removed from the end of its season, La Center’s John Lambert consoled, encouraged, and, perhaps most importantly, provided perspective.

The Wildcats lost to Elma 33-21 on Friday night in the bi-districts at La Center High School, ending their season at 4-6. In the scope of Lambert’s long coaching career, and even the few seniors’ four seasons, it’s a far cry from the program’s typical ways.

But, he asked the team, how do you judge success?

“(4-6 is) not very good for us,” Lambert said. “But if you judge where we started and where we ended up, we improved more than most teams in the state did.”

The Wildcats lost the vast majority of its contributors from a team that went to the 1A state semifinals in 2017. A fresh face stepped into nearly every position. And throughout much of the summer, it was apparent.

And after an 0-4 start — albeit an aggressively scheduled first four games — Lambert told the team he believed in them, and that the postseason was still within reach.

“He told us it’s going to be like climbing a ladder, we’re going to have to start here and climb every week,” senior Colin Namanny said. “And we did that.”

At times, against all odds.

“I don’t think people were expecting us to get this far,” Wyatt Dodson said. “We had some close games. We got better, reflected, learned from our, mistakes.”

On Friday night, however, Elma, in many ways a similar team to the Wildcats, proved too tough.
The Eagles leapt up to a 14-0 lead by deploying its hard-nosed, yet balanced running game, which the Wildcats had a tough time containing.

Once the deficit hit two touchdowns, La Center’s team leaders got heated on the sideline.

“I was yelling,” Namanny said. “A lot of kids were yelling. We got into each other, motivated each other.”

They answered quickly. Dodson returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. What started as a kick that bounced past him, forcing Dodson to turn his back momentarily to the quickly closing coverage, turned into a house call.

“A lane opened, and I thought ‘don’t get caught,’ ” Dodson said. “Definitely a momentum shift.”

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Elma effectively plugged the Wildcats’ run game up the middle. That’s when they adjusted. After halftime, quarterback Tom Lambert started keeping the ball on a power read option.

That opened up the run game on the first drive in the second half, a seven play (six runs), 68-yard march, that ended in an 11-yard touchdown run by Dodson to pull even at 21-21.

But in the end, the Eagles’ run game was too much. Taitum Brumfield took 27 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Brady Shriver — the lightning to Brumfield’s thunder — had 67 yards on 10 rushes.

Lambert finished with 89 yards rushing on 17 carries, along with 98 yards passing (7 of 16). His favorite target, again, was Andrew Scott, who caught three passes for 59 yards. Dodson chipped in 29 yards rushing on 16 carries and a touchdown.

But in the end, the Xs and Os and the box score meant little to the Wildcats. As Lambert preached to his team in the emotional moments after the final horn, there was plenty to walk away proud of.

“They never quit,” he said. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. Sometimes you run into a better team.”

ELMA 33, LA CENTER 21

Elma 14 7 6 6 —33


La Center 7 7 7 0 — 21

SCORING SUMMARY


First quarter
E— Taitum Brumfield 1 run (Alejandro Hernandez kick)
E—Brumfield 1 run (Hernandez kick)
LC—Wyatt Dodson 97 kick return (Sean Fox kick)
Second quarter
E—Tysen Richardson 14 pass from Cody Vollan (Hernandez kick)
LC—Tom Lambert 5 run (Fox kick)
Third quarter

LC—Dodson 11 run (Fox kick)
E—Vollan 5 run (kick failed)
Fourth quarter
E—Brumfield 9 run (conversion failed)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING — Elma: Taitum Brumfield 27-149, Cody Vollan 6-19, Brady Shriver 10-67. La Center: Tom Lambert 17-89, Wyatt Dodson 16-29, Jeremy Humphrey 2-0, Collin Namanny 1-0, Irving Alvarez 1-6.
PASSING — Elma: 4-8-0-82. La Center: Tom Lambert 7-16-1-98.
RECEIVING — Elma: Carter Jacobson 1-26, Tysen Richardson 3-56. La Center: Jeremy Humphrey 1-3, Andrew Scott 3-59, Jayden Schmitz 2-26, Irving Alvarez 1-10.

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Columbian Staff Writer