sLA CENTER — Kalama and La Center had a bit of everything on Friday.
Big plays, big responses during a back-and-forth affair.
But in the end, Kalama had one thing La Center didn’t – Jackson Esary.
The senior quarterback rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns, passed for 231 yards and two more scores and was everywhere on defense in Kalama’s 32-26 non-league win over the Wildcats.
“He was the dude tonight,” Kalama coach Sean McDonald said. “Defensively, that was his best game I’ve seen him play. He’s just a man amongst boys out there. He can take a game over when he wants to, and I’m glad he’s on my side.”
The biggest play for the Chinooks came in the third quarter, after La Center drove 69 yards on 18 plays – 17 runs – to take a 19-16 lead on Ben Rembiz’s 25-yard field goal.
On Kalama’s second play from scrimmage after the field goal, Esary found Max Cox for a 72-yard touchdown pass play to regain the lead 24-18.
Kalama looked to gain control in the fourth quarter when Esary’s 37-yard run put the Chinooks up 32-19.
But then Davari Grauer returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, cutting the margin to 32-26.
The Wildcats defense got a stop, but La Center could not get a first down. La Center got one last shot after the Chinooks fumbled at the La Center 5.
The Wildcats drove to midfield before freshman Luke Davidson patted down a fourth-down pass to seal the win.
“We came down and scored when we needed to,” Esary said. “But we were careless with the football. We had three turnovers, three unforced turnovers. … We couldn’t catch a break, but we battled, battled, battled, and we came out on top.”
La Center had its moments, too. In the second quarter, after Esary’s first touchdown run put Kalama up 16-8, Levi Giles’ 36-yard kickoff return and then three receptions put La Center on the Kalama 7 with one second left in the half.
Quarterback Darren Cepeda slipped between Kalama defenders before finding Tru Feldman for the touchdown, tying the game 16-16 at halftime.
“It’s just a different dynamic when (Cepeda) is in the game,” La Center coach John Lambert said. “That play in the second (quarter) was all him. There was nothing there, he got free and went back to the open receiver.”
Lambert said the game was just the kind of test he was looking for, just not the result.
“If we play a team and beat them by four touchdowns, I don’t think we get better,” he said. “But we’ll go back, work some things, and get better from this.”
In the end, it was just too much Jackson Esary.
“Jackson Esary is just a tremendous player,” Lambert said. “He’s so talented. Whenever he wanted yard, he could get it.”
KALAMA 32, LA CENTER 26
Kalama 8 8 8 8—32
La Center 0 16 3 7—26
K — Jack Doerty 61 pass from Jackson Esary (Nate Meyer pass from Doerty)
LC — Levi Giles 26 pass from Darren Cepeda (Tru Feldman pass from Cepeda)
K — Esary 5 run (Esary run)
LC — Feldman 7 pass from Cepeda (Jalen Ward run)
LC — Ben Rembiz 25 FG
K — Max Cox 72 pass from Esary (Doerty pass from Esary)
K — Esary 37 run (Esary run)
LC — Davari Grauer 86 kickoff return (Rembiz kick)
RUSHING — Kalama: Esary 17-138, Doerty 2-6, Alex Lamboa 1-(-3), team 3-(-6). La Center: Cepeda 17-46, Ward 21-73, Giles 4-13, David White 1-(-2), Garrett Maunu 1-2.
PASSING — Kalama: Esary 8-17-0-231. La Center: Cepeda 11-20-0-129, Grauer 1-1-0-5, Maunu 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Kalama: Doerty 5-128, Cox 1-72, Kaden Stariha 1-17, Jaxxon Truesdell 1-14. La Center: White 1-14, Giles 6-88, Cepeda 1-5, Lane Roberts 1-2, Ward 1-15, Feldman 1-7, Colby Hylton 1-3.