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Tim Martinez: Path to game-winning field goal started during a middle school recess for La Center’s Ben Rembisz

Tim Martinez: High school sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: October 12, 2022, 7:05pm

Last Saturday at Mount Baker, La Center senior kicker Ben Rembisz was thinking how crazy it would be if the game came down to him attempting a 52-yard field goal for the win.

But insanity didn’t start there.

It went beyond the fact that about 30 seconds earlier, La Center was 75 yards away from the end zone, trailing 25-16 and the Wildcats didn’t have the ball.

It went beyond the fact that midway through the third quarter, La Center found itself in 25-0 hole.

No, it goes all the way back to a recess when Rembisz was in middle school.

“I watched the middle school football players, went to a lot of their games,” Rembisz said. “And there was this one lunch time, we went out and played football. I had played soccer for a while, and I kicked one of the footballs. It went a mile. That’s kind of where it started.”

From there, Rembisz changed his focus from soccer to football. He became the Wildcats’ kicker during his freshman year at La Center.

He’s attended a couple of camps hosted by renown kicking trainer Chris Sailer and has developed into one of the area’s top kickers, giving coach John Lambert a weapon few small-school coaches have.

It was that weapon that Lambert was considering when the Wildcats faced fourth down on the Mount Baker 36. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Things began to turn for La Center in the third quarter when Jalen Ward ran 65 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats on the board.

“Jalen scoring that touchdown was kind of our flip in energy,” Rembisz said. “I mean, we had energy to start. Mount Baker is a really good team, and we were excited to play them. But that play kind of flipped a switch for us. We were like ‘we’re still in this game. We’ve got this.’ ”

A field goal and successful onside kick by Rembisz helped La Center get closer. But the Wildcats were still down 25-16 and in dire straits with about a minute to play.

“(Mount Baker) had the ball with almost a minute left, third down, we only have one timeout left, and they were up by 9. I mean, really,” Lambert said. “At that point, you’re just hoping something crazy happens. But then you talk to kids about making a play, making something happen. And that’s what Adam did.”

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Lambert was talking about Adam White, who got a strip fumble and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, getting La Center within 25-23 with 54 seconds left.

Then the Wildcats needed to recover another onside kick.

“It’s just something we practice every week on Thursday,” Rembisz said. “And last week, I was doing really good with that. (At halftime) Coach told me ‘we might have to use that a couple of times in this game.’ ”

Rembisz delivered the onside kick, and the Wildcats recovered. Rembisz started to get himself ready for a potential field goal when La Center got to the Mount Baker 36.

“My initial thought (was) ‘this might be a 52-yard field goal to win,’ ” Rembisz said. “The farthest I’ve kicked in practice is 55. I hit one from 50 last week during practice with a live snap and a live hold, so I knew I had the leg to do that. But obviously as much as I would want it to come down to my leg, I’d rather it be a little bit closer than 50 yards.”

Lambert was thinking the same thing, especially after Mount Baker nearly blocked some earlier kicks and a boot from 52 yards would require a lower trajectory.

“I was thinking there was probably a 10 or 20 percent chance of him making it from 52,” Lambert said. “So we felt good about the play we called, so let’s just run (the play).”

Quarterback Tru Feldman faked the ball to Ward, then hit Levi Giles for a completion along the sideline to the 20-yard line.

“Then it was ‘OK, we’re now in range. Let’s do one more play, see if we can get a little bit closer,’ ” Lambert said.

Feldman ran the ball to the 10-yard line with 12 seconds to play.

“Then it was ‘OK, Ben,’ ” Lambert said. “You know, we had a senior snapper (Clayton Muffett), a senior holder (Lane Roberts) and a senior kicker. I felt good about this.”

The snap was good. The hold was good. And Rembisz put the ball right through the uprights from 26 yards.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lambert called for a short pooch kick to prevent a big return by Mount Baker. Rembisz executed it, Mount Baker mishandled it, and La Center recovered for the 26-25 win.

“Then we got the bus fired up right away so we could leave before anyone could change it,” Lambert said. “That’s the kind of game it was. That’s how it felt. … I think everyone was in a little bit of a state of shock after that game. I can’t imagine what it was like to be on their sideline.”

For Rembisz, it felt like a dream.

“It was great,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in, and to see the ball go through the uprights, it was pretty special. That will probably be one of my highlights of the year.”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/preps coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.