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La Center rolls past Hoquiam into the Class 1A state playoffs

Reminded of last year's Week 10 defeat, Wildcats extend their season with 63-14 win over Grizzlies

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 4, 2022, 11:52pm

WOODLAND — While celebrating a Week 10 win over Hoquiam on Friday to reach the Class 1A state playoffs, one detail wasn’t lost on the La Center football team.

The Wildcats were at the same Woodland High School field for Week 10 last year, on the losing side of a 42-20 decision against Montesano, ending their season earlier than they hoped. 

Friday’s 63-14 win over Hoquiam was a reminder of the team they were then, and subsequently, the team the Wildcats developed into this season.

“We feel like there was some feeling here, because we lost here last year in the same game,” junior Jalen Ward said, standing on the Woodland turf.

The Trico League champions, now winners of nine straight, started rolling after suffering a fumble on its opening possession, one of four turnovers the Wildcats had during a relentless downpour with gusty winds.

The takeaways had little bearing on the team’s offensive productivity on the ground or through the air. La Center scored on each of its next three drives — a Levi Gilves 44-yard touchdown pass from Tru Feldman, plus rushing scores from Feldman and Ward, and a safety — to put the Wildcats ahead 22-0.

“Our kids are really good at brushing off when bad things happen and not letting that affect the next play,” La Center head coach John Lambert said. “We did what we wanted to do.”

Even after Hoquiam scored a defensive touchdown nearing the end of the half on a fumbled punt recovered by Kort Gordon in the end zone, La Center responded with three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter, putting a running block in effect with a 50-7 lead.

“I think that’s just us,” Ward said. “From the beginning of the season, our coaches told us, just forget about the mistakes (and) just keep going.”

The ebbs and flows of small-school football success are inevitable for almost any program, Lambert said. Hoquiam, for example, built itself back up from a one-win season in 2021 to a 4-6 team and Week 10 qualifier this season.

La Center (9-1) can also say, without hesitation, it’s an improved team. Part of the reason is additional experience and talent from last year. Yet there’s also a quality these Wildcats have that sets them apart: they simply like to compete.

The Wildcats haven’t lost since their season opener to 2A Hockinson, and their wins have come in a variety of ways. They’re a more complete team now than they were two months ago.

“I’m really excited where we’re at, where we’re finishing,” Lambert said. “The first game, we had a lot of young guys, we made mistakes, we owned it, we learned from it and I think we’re a better team now because we lost that game. … Learning how to deal with that adversity.

“The other thing, I think, that’s an x-factor is our competitiveness. We weren’t as competitive last year, just innately. When you have competitive kids who want to do well, who strive for success, who spent time in the weight room in the offseason, there’s no quit in those kids.”

Seedings for the 1A state playoffs will be announced on Sunday. Lambert is hopeful his team will earn a home game in the opening round of the 16-team bracket.


Hoquiam 0 7 0 7—14

La Center 16 13 21 13—63

First quarter

LC — Levi Giles 44 pass from Tru Feldman (Ben Rembisz kick)

LC — Safety

LC — Feldman 16 run (Rembisz kick)

Second quarter

LC — Jalen Ward 8 run (Rembisz kick)

LC — Parker McKinney 57 pass from Feldman (kick failed)

H — Kort Gordon 1 fumble recovery (Gevin Wonderly-Leonar kick)

Third quarter

LC — Feldman 5 run (Rembisz kick)

LC — Ward 41 run (Rembisz kick)

LC — Giles 17 run (Rembisz kick)

Fourth quarter

LC — Isaac Chromey 19 run (Rembisz kick)

H — Jake Templer 4 run (Wonderly-Leonar kick)

LC — Davari Grauer 84 kickoff return (kick failed)

Individual statistics

RUSHING — Hoquiam: Templer 12-13, Zander Jump 8-72, Anthony Burtenshaw 5-12, Joey Bozich 2-2, Brayden Zaborac 1-3, Kingston Case 1-1, Wonderly-Leonard 1-(-2), Owen McNeill 1-(-8). La Center: Feldman 11-78, Ward 7-84, Lane Johnson 6-74, Chromey 2-38, Garrett Maunu 1-27, Giles 1-17, Grauer 1-4.

PASSING — Hoquiam: Jump 7-17-1-62. La Center: Feldman 11-17-0-185.

RECEIVING — Hoquiam: McNeill 3-40, Templer 2-7, Aden Bennett 1-9, Wonderly-Leonard 1-6. La Center: Giles 3-58, Houston Coyle 3-18, McKinney 2-68, Maunu 2-15, Grauer 1-19, Austin Nixon 1-15.