Defending league champion La Center could be on the verge of a ‘great’ season
The Trico League starts with La Center.
Until otherwise proven, it is La Center’s football league.
The Wildcats, perennial powers, return a ton of talent from last season’s championship.
Still, they cannot simply assume anything.
“The league is going to be just as competitive, if not more competitive, than last year,” said Seton Catholic coach Dennis Herling.
His Cougars made the playoffs for the first time in program history in 2021, finishing third. They just missed topping Castle Rock for second place.
Seton did graduate most of its skill position players, but the program’s numbers are on the rise. Big time. Seton Catholic now has 47 players out for football. Oh, and only eight are seniors and juniors. That’s right. Seton Catholic has 39 sophomores and freshmen.
Herling said that will be a good thing in the long run.
The numbers are growing at King’s Way Christian, as well. That program, just a couple of years after being put on hiatus, is up to 38 players.
“It’s our first year back in the league after the hiatus and then our independent schedule last year,” said King’s Way Christian coach Nick Mancillas. “It’s great for the school, competing where we belong.”
It is his second year as the head coach, so the first for him in the Trico League.
“I’m excited to build the league rivalries,” he said.
La Center, again, would have to be the prohibitive favorite, if there were such a thing in high school sports. The Wildcats will be challenging themselves with a tough non-league schedule. La Center will be taking on bigger schools Hockinson and Woodland as well as traditional power Mount Baker.
“It doesn’t help us to play competition that doesn’t challenge us or make us better,” La Center coach John Lambert said.
As most coaches, he is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. He said he thinks this could be a “great” year for La Center, but he is not ready to guarantee anything.
“It will be eye opening to see where we’re at after (playing) Mount Baker. That’s Week 6,” Lambert said. “That will say a lot. I think we have a chance to be really good.”
The teams chasing La Center are up for a challenge, too.
“We’re not going to shy away,” Mancillas said, thrilled that the season starts this week. “We’re tired of hitting each other. We want to go hit someone else.”
Herling said he enjoys never knowing what to expect in the Trico League. He said one week could be a defensive, low-scoring matchup and the next game could be a barnburner with touchdown after touchdown.
“We’re excited we made the playoffs for the first time, but we don’t want to get complacent,” Herling said. “We want to improve.”
Improvement is the key word at Fort Vancouver, as well. The Trappers are a Trico League team, but won’t play La Center this year. All other teams are on the schedule, though. Fort returns 10 seniors.
“I just want to make sure we’re competing and doing all the right things and doing it the right way,” Fort Vancouver coach Doug Bilodeau said. “My expectations are that my kids play hard and that they are well coached and they are ready for battle.”
There should be a lot of battles this season in the Trico League.
But going into Week 1, it’s La Center on top, with a bunch of teams that believe they have a shot at the playoffs, too.
Fort Vancouver at Vashon Island, 3 p.m. Saturday
King’s Way Christian at Stevenson, 7 p.m. Friday
Hockinson at La Center, 7 p.m. Friday
Rochester at Seton Catholic, 7 p.m. Friday
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