HOCKINSON — Don’t think for a second the La Center Wildcats will overreact to a week one victory.
After putting together a dominant display in a 43-7 road win against Hockinson on Friday to open the 2023 football season, the Wildcats didn’t want to get caught up in a single result. Their attention quickly shifted to next week’s opponent, Woodland, and the days of practice ahead.
“It really boosts our confidence and gives us something to work toward,” said junior Wyatt Eiesland, a linebacker and offensive lineman. “We still also got something to show. (La Center Athletic Director Matt Cooke) showed us a quote (that) said, ‘You can celebrate all you want on the field, but once you get back into the locker room, it’s all about next week.’”
Yet the importance of the win, 1A La Center’s first against 2A Hockinson since 2010, couldn’t be overstated. The Wildcats felt their 2022 season ended prematurely in a first-round loss of the Class 1A state playoffs, then entered this season with just four seniors on the roster. The team’s core juniors and sophomores showed Friday they’re ready to step into bigger roles.
La Center scored touchdowns on all six of its first-half drives, while holding Hockinson scoreless with just 66 total yards through two quarters.
Juniors Houston Coyle and Isaac Chromey each accounted for two touchdowns, senior Jalen Ward added a 24-yard rushing score and junior Kaden Emerson hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior Garrett Maunu.
“I feel like everyone has to be on their top game (and) everyone has to act like seniors,” Coyle said. “Seniors may be the leaders, but sophomores and juniors got to act like seniors.”
Coyle accounted for the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns, starting with the opening kickoff.
A Hockinson crowd teeming with excitement turned up the volume as the Hawks lined up to kick deep. But when Coyle retrieved the ball, found an opening and sprinted up the Wildcats’ sideline to the house, the visitors took the air out of the stadium.
“(Our) sideline was pumping,” Coyle said. “I heard nothing. The crowd was just silent. It was just all quiet to me. Once that hole opened up, I was gone. It was awesome.”
La Center thrived in the quiet atmosphere.
Their offensive line paved the way for nearly 200 rushing yards, led by Ward’s 68 yards, while Maunu completed completed 9-of-12 passes for 119 yards.
The Wildcats’ defense was equally stout, forcing two turnovers and three sacks. Hockinson scored its lone touchdown on senior quarterback Andon Stenersen’s 5-yard run with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
With a 40-point lead and running clock in effect for the entirety of the second half, La Center pulled most of its starters and put in a younger group of reserves.
“It shows that even though we’re young, we can still hit and we’re going to have a couple more good years after this,” Eiesland said. “We’ve still got a lot of good kids coming up … and you could see it out there at the end — they were hitting hard.”
LA CENTER 43, HOCKINSON 7
La Center 12 28 0 3—43
Hockinson 0 0 0 7—7
LC — Houston Coyle 90 kickoff return (kick failed)
LC — Coyle 6 run (two-point conversion failed)
LC — Isaac Chromey 2 run (Nate Rembisz kick)
LC — Jalen Ward 23 run (Rembisz kick)
LC — Kaden Emerson 32 pass from Garrett Maunu (Rembisz kick)
LC — Chromey 5 run (Rembisz kick)
LC — Rembisz 25 field goal
H — Andon Stenersen 5 run (Trevor Holmes kick)
RUSHING — La Center: Houston Coyle 6-50, Garrett Maunu 4-38, Isaac Chromey 5-7, Jalen Ward 12-68, Gaven Emerson 5-29, Brady Brandenburg 3-7, Carson Garlington 1-(minus 2), Jett Johnson 1-(minus 6); Hockinson: Shey Yarbrough 3-0, Aiden Donowitz 3-(minus 3), Andon Stenersen 3-(minus 5), Jake McKee 1-17, Xavier Maitland 2-17.
PASSING — La Center: Maunu 9-12-0-119; Hockinson: Stenersen 8-15-0-72, Donowitz 4-15-1-44.
RECEIVING — La Center: Coyle 3-15, Parker McKinney 1-14, Kaden Emerson 1-32, Ward 1-35, Austin Nixon 2-16; Hockinson: Carter Cameron 6-57, Kasen Niemitalo 3-44, Zachary Chung 1-5, Brody Bonife 1-0, Yarbrough 1-(minus 1), Gage Prepula 1-11.