WOODLAND — The tougher things got for La Center’s football team Saturday, the better the Wildcats performed.
What was billed as a showcase between the Southwest District’s top 1A programs turned into a demonstration of La Center’s resiliency.
The result was a 41-24 La Center loss to Montesano at Woodland High School, but the scoreline says little about the Wildcats.
Following a successful onside kick to open the game that paved the way for a 36-yard scoring rumble by Bryten Schmitz, the Bulldogs scored 31 consecutive points. Montesano led 31-8 at the break.
Montesano (4-0) quarterback Trace Ridgway had his way with the Wildcats’ defense, scoring four first-half touchdowns on his way to a 177-yard rushing performance. The senior finished with 265 total yards and five scores.
La Center never wilted, though.
The Wildcats rallied back in the second half to keep the score competitive, and on the most difficult plays, they converted. They went 4 of 8 on fourth downs, helped by impressive catches from Irving Alvarez, Levi Giles and Colby Namanny.
“You get challenged like that and that’s how you improve,” coach John Lambert said. “I don’t know where else you get this type of experience to improve.”
Nothing the Wildcats did on Saturday was more impressive than Namanny’s fourth-quarter grab. On third-and-4, the senior receiver ran a deep crossing route and quarterback Tom Lambert launched the ball up. Despite a deflection, Namanny tracked the ball as he fell and hauled in the pass for a 33-yard gain. Three plays later, he scored on a 15-yard pass to the back of the end zone. He also was the receiver on the successful two-point conversion.
“After that, you keep flowing. It’s crazy what you can do,” Namanny said of the groove he got in after the catch. “I wish it would have gotten it sooner in the game.”
Lambert finished 12 of 25 for 169 yards and a touchdown through the air, and ran for 63 yards on 9 attempts and a score. Schmitz tallied 68 yards on 13 carries for the Wildcats (2-1).
La Center travels to Columbia-White Salmon on Friday for its penultimate game of the shortened season.
MONTESANO 41, LA CENTER 24
Montesano 15 16 3 7 — 41
La Center 8 0 8 8 — 24
LC — Bryten Schmitz 36 run (Levi Giles pass from Tom Lambert)
M — Christian Prall 11 pass from Trace Ridgway (Isaiah Pierce pass from Ridgway)
M — Ridgway 9 run (Jaeger Didion kick)
M — Safety
M — Ridgway 9 run (Didion kick)
M — Ridgway 35 run (Didion kick)
LC — Lambert 12 run (Jeremy Humphrey pass from Lambert)
M — Didion 22 FG
M — Ridgway 1 run (Didion kick)
LC — Colby Namanny 15 pass from Lambert (Namanny pass from Lambert)
Rushing — M: Isaac Pierce 5-26, Aydan Darst 6-16, Trace Ridgway 21-177, Isaiah Pierce 13-36; LC: Jalen Ward 1-3, Tom Lambert 9-63, Darren Cepeda 2-4, Bryten Schmitz 13-68.
Passing — M: Trace Ridgway 7-11-0-88; LC: Tom Lambert 12-25-1-169, Bryten Schmitz 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — M: Isaac Pierce 3-27, Christian Prall 3-41, Connor Hollatz 1-20; LC: Andrew Kysar 1-30, Colby Namanny 2-48, Irving Alvarez 2-26, Levi Giles 3-29, Bryten Schmitz 3-27, David White 1-9.