Reporter Paul Valencia wraps up Week 1 of this abbreviated high school football season
We witnessed new records from the La Center Wildcats.
Columbia River has no name yet but has never lost a football game as just Columbia River.
The Ridgefield Spudders got defensive, scoring two defensive touchdowns, in its victory.
Even in defeat, there were special moments from Fort Vancouver, Woodland, and Hudson’s Bay.
All this and more notes from the other games featuring Clark County teams in the first weekend of a strange-but-true football season. Yes, high school football in February. Go figure.
This past weekend belonged to the 2A and 1A programs in the region. Next week, the 4A and 3A programs will be on the schedule, too.
La Center gets pass happy
Tom Lambert is making the most of his five-game schedule his senior season.
The quarterback threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes in a 58-0 win over Fort Vancouver at Kiggins Bowl.
La Center had been working on passing more in recent years anyway and had hoped to unleash its new look in the fall, with a full season. That didn’t happen, of course, but now that the season is here, Week 1 is proof that yes, the Wildcats can throw the ball.
Lambert went 19 for 32 for 367 yards.
“I didn’t expect that much, but I knew we were going to do more,” Lambert said.
There was a win on the scoreboard but a much bigger victory for the players.
“I didn’t even know we were going to get a season. We were just putting in all that work, not knowing,” Lambert said. “And then it came out, and we were ready. … Everyone was just ready.”
Coby Namanny caught eight passes for 137 yards and four touchdowns.
Tyler Normine had two interceptions for the LC defense.
Best thing I saw Saturday
I went to three games Saturday. The best catch was made by Fort Vancouver sophomore Evan Mendez, who leaped over a defensive back, and came down with the ball.
The best catch, but not the best thing I saw.
Later in the game, Mendez got behind the La Center defense, and quarterback Kaeleb Cvitkovich threw a perfect pass. It was going to be Fort’s only touchdown. Mendez dropped it.
Now, I’ll be honest. I don’t normally write about a dropped pass, but what happened next was special.
Mendez was visibly upset with himself as he made it back to the line of scrimmage. Cvitkovich ran up to him and supported his teammate.
“He told me to just keep my head up and move on,” Mendez said.
The very next play, Cvitkovich threw the ball to Mendez again. I wish I could report it was caught by Mendez. No, it was intercepted. But the Trappers are building a connection on the football field.
Mendez dropped one he likely would catch 99 out of 100 times. His quarterback said don’t worry about it. Then looked for Mendez again.
It is going to take some time for Fort Vancouver football to rebuild. But that sequence shows it is possible.
“It’s fun. I like the contact,” Mendez said of playing football after such a long offseason. “It was fun playing with my teammates. We family.”
Winning is the name of the game for Columbia River
This is the first sports season at Columbia River High School without a mascot. Last week, we found out the four potential names that must first be approved by the school board and then a vote will be taken by the student body.
One person on social media suggested I should start tweeting out the Sasquatch when reporting on Columbia River football scores.
Nope. Not gonna do that just yet, but maybe one day soon it will be official. Yes, Sasquatch is one of the potential names. The others: Rapids. Royals. Or no mascot. Just go with the CR logo and say River.
That will be determined later, but we do know that The Columbia River Football Team is 1-0 after a 22-13 comeback victory at Woodland.
Columbia River perfected the 2-minute drill just before the end of the first half. Quarterback Mason Priddy found tight end Adam Huerena on a 1-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the half to take a 15-13 lead.
Woodland opened the second half with a 13-play drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock. The River defense was up to the challenge, though, getting a fourth-down stop. The River defense would then force turnovers on Woodland’s next two possessions.
Priddy found the end zone on a short run for the lone touchdown of the second half, giving River some breathing room.
“I just can’t thank the other guys enough. They put in so much work in the offseason to make this happen,” Priddy said of the victory, as well as just being ready for the season.
“I love it so much. Coach said it was 400-something days, the last time we played a football game,” Priddy said. “It’s just the most fun thing in my life, for sure.”
Woodland got rushing touchdowns from J.J. Fuerst and Mark Morales.
“I’m super grateful for this opportunity,” Fuerst said of just playing the game. “It’s nice to be out here, be with my team. One last ride, even if it is short.”
Ridgefield gets defensive
Dylan Parton had a premonition.
“On the sideline, I turned to my buddy, ‘I’m going to get a defensive touchdown. This drive. It’s going to happen.’ I felt it. I felt it,” Parton said.
Then he did it, with a big assist from teammate Sam Everett.
Everett and Parton were chasing down the Hudson’s Bay quarterback. Everett got there first, sacked him and forced a fumble. Parton fell on the ball in the end zone for the first score of the game Saturday in what turned into a 42-0 Ridgefield victory.
“That’s my first touchdown. Ever. It felt really good,” Parton said.
“The energy after I got that (sack), the team was in a much better mood,” Everett said. “I feel like it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
And later in the game, it was one of Everett’s teammates who made a play that led to Everett scoring a defensive touchdown.
Wyatt Bartoff tipped a pass, Everett caught it, and returned it for a pick-six.
Luke Price threw three touchdown passes for the Spudders.
Next for Ridgefield is a home game against Washougal on Friday.
“No one thought we were going to have a season,” Parton said. “Actually being here, playing, it feels amazing.”
Hit of the day
I’ll be honest. The Hudson’s Bay uniforms are a pain for an old journalist. They look great, but the numbers are tough to read. Especially with fogged-up glasses. Plus, I had a bad angle on this particular play. But there was one “wow” moment for the Eagles. Had there been spectators at Kiggins Bowl, you would have heard a “whoooaaaaah” throughout the stadium.
I wasn’t exactly sure of the number. But later, I was told it was Antonio Balderas who made the hit of the day for the Eagles
Ridgefield was on the Bay 3-yard line. After this play, Ridgefield was on the Bay 6-yard line. A loss of three yards and a highlight.
Balderas said he had no memory of the play. So I asked again, was it really Balderas? His teammates confirmed. Oh yes, it was him.
Gotta be honest, if I ever hit someone like that in a game 30-plus years ago, I’d still be talking about it.
Balderas did say it was fun to be playing again.
“You couldn’t ask for anything else,” he said.
It might be an abbreviated season, but it’s a season.
The Hockinson Hawks are hoping to win their seventh consecutive 2A Greater St. Helens League title. They got off to a fine start with a 56-0 win over R.A. Long.
Washougal, which reached the Class 2A state quarterfinals in 2019, also opened with a victory, taking care of Mark Morris 33-19.
And in the game of the day, Seton Catholic beat White Salmon 28-26 in overtime.
White Salmon scored first in overtime, but CJ Hamblin found Lance Stuck for a touchdown pass to tie the game. Then Hamblin connected with Elijah Volk for the 2-point conversion and the win in new coach Dennis Herling’s first game.