With full-contact practices allowed to start just this week, the La Center football team was rusty in some areas Saturday.
Passing was not one of them.
Whether in practice pods or by just slinging the ball around in their free time, quarterback Tom Lambert and his La Center receivers have already forged a connection.
That chemistry was on full display in a 58-0 season-opening win over Fort Vancouver at Kiggins Bowl. Lambert threw for 373 yards and seven touchdowns, four to senior Coby Nemanny.
For Lambert, racking up yards and touchdowns was fun. But his biggest thrill Saturday was getting back on the field after the senior saw last spring’s baseball season cancelled before football was delayed in the fall.
“I’ve just been waiting for it,” said Lambert, whose father, John, is La Center’s head coach. “It’s my senior year and I was hoping to get one last season with my dad. He’s coached me ever since (Clark County Youth Football), so it’s good to know I get one last shot with him.”
Fort Vancouver, a 2A school playing a 1A Trico League schedule, knew its hands would be full against the perennial Trico favorites. But the final score wasn’t the important thing for the Trappers.
“We just got our pads on Wednesday, which was a little tough,” said Fort quarterback Kaeleb Cvitkovich. “But I’m happy that we’re out here and able to compete against a really good team in La Center. Whatever the scoreboard says, we put up a fight.”
In the first quarter, Lambert looked to his tallest receiver in 6-foot-1 Nemanny. The senior hauled in touchdown passes of 17, 3 and 54 yards, racking up 90 yards receiving before the second quarter.
“We have goals all over the place – Win, have a good time,” said Nemanny, who finished with 137 yards on eight catches. “We’re a big family, so all that matters is having a good time.”
Lambert spread the fun to his other receivers in the second quarter. Andrew Kysar scored a 44-yard touchdown after juking two defenders after a screen pass.
Jeremy Humphrey added a 9-yard touchdown catch before Nemanny’s fourth TD, a 22-yarder.
Lambert said he likes having different types of receivers to throw to in a season when La Center, which has typically relied on the run, expects to pass often.
“Koby’s a bigger dude so you can throw it up to him,” Lambert said. “He’s tough and he runs hard. Then we have a bunch of quick little dudes who get open and run good routes. Everyone’s reliable. I can trust anyone.”
Saturday’s game was played with no fans in attendance. Kickoffs, punts and extra-point kicks weren’t allowed due to the lack of full-contact practices for both teams.
Regardless of the restrictions or final score, both Fort and La Center were just happy to play, get better and work with teammates toward a common goal.
“Our coaches believe that no matter how many games we win, no matter how many points we score, this team and Fort in general, it’s about family,” said Cvitkovich. “It’s about strength in our community.”
LA CENTER 58, FORT VANCOUVER 0
La Center 22 20 8 8 – 58
Fort Vancouver 0 0 0 0 – 0
LC – Coby Namanny 17 pass from Tom Lambert (Davari Grauer run)
LC – Nemanny 3 pass from Lambert (Jeremy Humphrey run)
LC – Nemanny 54 pass from Lambert (run failed)
LC – Andrew Kysar 44 pass from Lambert (run failed)
LC – Humphrey 9 pass from Lambert (Humphrey run)
LC – Nemanny 22 pass from Lambert (run failed)
LC – Davari Grauer 53 pass from Lambert (Jalen Ward run)
LC – Austin Nixon 21 run (Joseph Kulla run)
RUSHING – LC: Tom Lambert 6-100, Jeremy Humphrey 2-20, Jalen Ward 4-42, Lane Roberts 1-7, Tyler Normine 1-15, Joseph Kulla 1-10, Austin Nixon 1-21. Fort: Antonio Ronquillo 7-(minus-2), Evan Mendez 1-10, Nikolao Luifau 3-11, Tayvon Vance 2-(minus-5), Kaeleb Cvitkovich 3-(minus-2).
PASSING – LC: Tom Lambert 19-32-1-373. Fort: Kaeleb Cvitkovich 10-22-3-22.
RECEIVEING – LC: David White 2-33, Coby Nemanny 8-137, Jeremy Humphrey 2-24, Levi Giles 3-59, Andrew Kysar 1-44, Irving Alvarez 1-20, Davari Grauer 2-51. Fort: Evan Mendez 5-61, Nikolao Luifao 2-2, Zebedee Santacruz 3-9.