LA CENTER — With a team that has only four seniors, the La Center Wildcats have certainly grown up in a hurry.
But it isn’t just in their two early-season victories, including Friday’s 24-8 win over 2A Woodland that longtime head coach John Lambert has seen the most growth. That credit goes all the way back to June.
“I felt that at (team) camp,” Lambert said. “The biggest jump in high school (football) is from sophomore to junior year, particularly when you play as a sophomore and make mistakes, but they’re a talented group.
“I’m excited about where we can go this year and the things we can do.”
Officially, Friday’s game at La Center Community Stadium is another Wildcat win in the annual Lewis River Rivalry: football edition. La Center has now won four straight over the Beavers.
“It gets really heated, but it’s a lot of fun,” junior Wyatt Eiesland said of the rivalry. “It’s a lot of excitement.”
And there was plenty of excitement for the Wildcats. La Center is one of the few Clark County football teams to be 2-0 after two weeks of play. While the offense now has scored 10 touchdowns in two games, including an 18- and 10-yard scores by Jalen Ward (124 yards, 18 carries) in Friday’s victory, the defense has allowed just two scores. It also had a fumble recovery and an interception against the Beavers.
What’s the secret to defensive success? Pretty elementary, according to Eiesland, a linebacker.
“We really focused on family and doing our own jobs,” he said. “We understand that the buddy next to me is going to do their job, so we have to focus on doing ours and it will be a great success.”
La Center and Woodland’s season-opening victories featured high-scoring affairs by both teams. Not so much for either Friday.
La Center held an 8-0 advantage on Woodland until the 4:13 mark of the third quarter when Woodland quarterback Brett Martynowicz hit Chase Hall over the middle for an eventual 49-yard touchdown reception. That tied the game at 8-all.
The next three possessions for Woodland were turnovers on downs while La Center capitalized offensively. Isaac Chromey’s 17-yard touchdown run gave La Center the lead for good in the final minute of the third quarter, capping an 80-yard scoring drive lasting 3 minutes.
What impressed Lambert most Friday is how his team finished. This after two drives inside the redzone stalled, yet its defense stood tall only allowing two big plays all night — the 49-yard touchdown by Hall and Elijah Andersen’s 53-yard catch late in the first quarter.
“That was huge for us,” Lambert said.
Andersen, who played snaps at safety, quarterback, tailback, slot receiver and wideout, led the Beavers (1-1) in receiving yards (94 yards, six catches) and total carries (10).
LA CENTER 24, WOODLAND 8
Wood 0 0 8 0 — 8
LC 8 0 8 8 — 24
LC — Jalen Ward 10 run (Houston Coyle pass from Garrett Maunu)
W — Chase Hall 49 pass from Brett Martynowicz (Elijah Andersen run)
LC — Isaac Chromey 17 run (Chromey run)
LC — Ward 18 run (Parker McKinney pass from Maunu)
Rushing — Woodland: Elijah Andersen 10-23, Brett Martynowicz 3-24, Karson Northcut 7-16; La Center: Jalen Ward 18-124, Garrett Maunu 2-0, Isaac Chromey 6-31, Houston Coyle 1-12.
Passing — Woodland: Martynowicz 10-21-0-169, Andersen 0-1-1-0; La Center: Garrett Maunu 14-23-0-164.
Receiving — Woodland: Andersen 6-94, Zach Young 2-15, Chase Hall 1-49, Karson Northcut 1-11; La Center: Jalen Ward 2-13, Parker McKinney 4-51, Houston Coyle 5-67, Austin Nixon 3-24, Jaden Emerson 1-9.