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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Omak ends La Center’s season in 1A state playoffs

Wildcats’ first loss ends season at 10-1

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

LA CENTER — First, it began with two, long touchdown passes that got Omak on the scoreboard. 

Then, consecutive turnovers to begin the second half proved costly for La Center. 

In the end, the 21-7 loss Friday night to Omak ended the Wildcats’ season in the Class 1A state playoffs for a second straight season. It also was La Center’s only loss in a year that began with 10 straight wins. 

A successful season at 10-1 overall, yes, said, junior quarterback Houston Coyle, but not how the Wildcats envisioned it ending with an earlier-than-anticipated exit. 

22 Photos
La Center junior Houston Coyle, left, stiff arms Omak sophomore Joshua Bucsko on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, during the Wildcats’ 21-7 playoff loss to Omak at La Center High School.
Prep Football: Omak at La Center Photo Gallery

“We expected to play more (football),” he said. “We knew it in ourselves. We fought our (butts) off, but we just couldn’t execute.

“It hurts, but we just have to keep going.”

The seven points is the fewest La Center scored in a game all season. Jalen Ward’s 40-yard touchdown reception from Coyle in the first quarter cut the deficit to 14-7 and that’s as close as La Center got to an Omak (7-4) team that now faces top-seeded Royal in next weekend’s state quarterfinal. Royal topped Eatonville, 50-0, in its first-round game.

Friday at La Center Community Stadium, Omak struck fast when quarterback Beau Sackman hit receivers Taegen Mullin and Kaiden Deveraux for touchdowns of 69 and 91 yards, respectively, in two of the Pioneers’ first four possessions in the first quarter. 

Friday was just the second time La Center held a state playoff game at the stadium’s natural-grass field — the first since 2019. In more recent years when La Center reached the postseason as a home team, it often used near-by high schools’ turfed venues. La Center Community Stadium’s grass field was cleared for game usage earlier this week, giving the team and its four seniors a true state playoff home game. 

As the game progressed, though, so did Mother Nature and elements when rain mixes with natural grass and 22 football players. The game featured four lost fumbles and plenty of slippage. 

“I don’t know how much different it would’ve been on turf, honestly,” La Center coach John Lambert said. “We’ve done it both ways.”

At one point, La Center, uncharacteristically, had a stretch of three straight turnovers. One of them, a lost fumble, came in the 90 seconds of the first half approaching the redzone trailing 14-7. Two more miscues also came to begin the third quarter. The first — an interception on the second play to open the second half — led to a nine-play scoring drive by Omak, capped by a Sackman-to-Mullin connection again, this time for a 10-yard touchdown strike to give Omak its 21-7 advantage. 

La Center’s best chance to cut the deficit to a one-score game again came with 3:57 to play in the game. The Wildcats set up the possession first by capitalizing off an Omak fumble. Ward’s 18-yard first-down run — the largest run of the night at that point — set the Wildcats up inside the 22-yard line, and three plays later — and facing a fourth and 29 — backup quarterback Isaac Chromey hit Ward for the fourth-down conversion. But the scoring threat ended when Omak’s Elijah Allen intercepted in the endzone. 

Coyle became La Center’s starting quarterback in Week 4 following a season-ending injury to Garrett Maunu. The small senior class — Maunu, Jalen Ward, Austin Nixon and Ryan Kawalek — was the first thing on Coyle’s mind postgame Friday.

“I’m going to miss these seniors,” Coyle said. “I feel like the less you have, the more connected you are to them. And I’m really going to miss them and this team.”

OMAK 21, LA CENTER 7

Omak 14 0 7 0 – 21

LC 7 0 0 0 – 7

First quarter

O – Taegen Mullin 69 pass from Beau Sackman (kick good)

O – Kaiden Deveraux 91 pass from Sackman (kick good)

LC – Jalen Ward 40 pass from Houston Coyle (Nate Rembisz kick)

Third quarter

O – Mullin 10 pass from Sackman (kick good)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Omak — Elijah Allen 8-44, Beau Sackman 13-67, Kaiden Deveraux 2-5; La Center — Jalen Ward 10-53, Houston Coyle 10-42, Isaac Chromey 6-29, Kaden Emerson 3-2.

PASSING: Omak — Sackman 6-15-1-226; La Center — Coyle 7-19-1-83; Chromey 1-3-1-26

RECEIVING: Omak — Deveraux 1-91, Taegen Mullin 5-135; La Center — Ward 3-70, Emerson 5-39

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