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Elma ends La Center’s attempt to return to the state playoffs

After four wins in their last five games, Wildcats open the postseason with a loss

LA CENTER — The La Center Wildcats gave the Elma Eagles a scare Friday night.

They tied the Class 1A district playoff game in the second half, even had a couple chances to take the lead.

In the end, it was a season-ending playoff loss for the Wildcats.

La Center running back Wyatt Dodson (36) rushes around the end during the Wildcats’ 33-21 loss to Elma Friday at La Center High School. Dodson scored two touchdowns for the Wildcats in the loss. Photo by Mike Schultz
La Center running back Wyatt Dodson (36) rushes around the end during the Wildcats’ 33-21 loss to Elma Friday at La Center High School. Dodson scored two touchdowns for the Wildcats in the loss. Photo by Mike Schultz

But it was another playoff berth. That was an accomplishment in itself after the Wildcats opened the season 0-4.

Taitum Brumfield rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns and Elma scored the final two touchdowns for a 33-21 victory at La Center. The Eagles advanced to the state playoffs.

The Wildcats will feel the pain of this defeat but also feel proud of how much they improved. After four losses in the row, La Center went 4-1 down the stretch, all Trico League games, to finish in second place.

The Wildcats also kept their impressive streak alive: This is now 13 consecutive playoff appearances.

“Just considering all the odds against us and how no one believed,” senior Wyatt Dodson said. “We started oh-and-four. We built. We got better.”

The 20 new starters the team had this year took time to find the right chemistry, but they figured it out to make it to Week 10.

“It just shows improvement is everything,” La Center quarterback Tom Lambert said. “It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish.”

La Center quarterback Tom Lambert (6) sheds an Elma defender with a stiff arm during Friday’s district playoff game at La Center High School. Lambert had 104 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Wildcats. Photo by Mike Schultz
La Center quarterback Tom Lambert (6) sheds an Elma defender with a stiff arm during Friday’s district playoff game at La Center High School. Lambert had 104 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Wildcats. Photo by Mike Schultz

La Center coach John Lambert recalled a jamboree scrimmage during the summer on the same field.

“I don’t know if we had one play that was successful, offense or defense,” he said. “The growth they’ve had from that point until now is just tremendous. You want the kids to work hard, believe, trust the process, and they did that.”

The coach called it a “successful 4-6 season,” after all the Wildcats endured.

They nearly made it to 5-5 and into state.

Trailing 14-0 just minutes into the game, the Wildcats fought their way back. First, it was a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dodson.

Elma would go up 21-7 in the second quarter, but La Center responded just before halftime when Lambert scored on a 5-yard keeper.

The Wildcats tied the game on the opening drive of the second half, capped by Dodson’s 12-yard touchdown run.

“It just shows our character and our integrity,” said Tom Lambert, who rushed for 104 yards. “We wanted it so bad.”

That was it for the La Center offense, though.

Elma’s Cody Vollan scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter, then Brumfield took over in the fourth quarter. He had consecutive runs for 11, 8, 8, and 9 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 33-21 lead with 3:58 to play.

“I have to thank my teammates, especially my offensive line,” Brumfield said. “I’d be nothing without them.”

La Center tight end Jeremy Humphrey (31) attempts to change direction to avoid an Elma defender in the Wildcats’ district playoff loss Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz
La Center tight end Jeremy Humphrey (31) attempts to change direction to avoid an Elma defender in the Wildcats’ district playoff loss Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz

Elma was 2-7 his freshman year. Now a senior, Brumfield said this has been a dream for the Eagles, realized because of their hard work. It will be Elma’s first state appearance since 2005.

Dodson called the playoff environment “crazy” and “fun” despite the loss.

“We gave it everything,” Dodson said. “It just came down to four or five plays.”

He and his fellow seniors saw their high school football careers come to an end.

“I could ask for a better record, but never for a different team,” Dodson said. “I would never change this team.”

He said it was an honor to play for “one of the greatest coaches” in Lambert.

“It’s an experience I’ll take with me for the rest of my life,” Dodson said. “I’ll always be proud to say I played at La Center.”


ELMA 33, LA CENTER 21

Elma 14 7 6 6 — 33

La Center 7 7 7 0 — 21

First quarter

E — Taitum Brumfield 1 run (Alejandro Hernandez kick)

E — Brumfield 1 run (Hernandez kick)

LC — Wyatt Dodson 95 kickoff return (Sean Fox kick)

Second quarter

E — Tysen Richardson 14 pass from Cody Vollan (Hernandez kick)

LC — Tom Lambert 5 run (Fox kick)

Third quarter

LC — Dodson 12 run (Fox kick)

E — Vollan 4 run (kick blocked)

Fourth quarter

E — Brumfield 9 run (run failed)

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Elma — Brumfield 29-164, Brady Shriver 11-71, Vollan 8-18. La Center — Dodson 15-32, Lambert 20-104, Jeremy Humphrey 2-0, Collin Namanny 1-0, Irving Alvarez 1-7.

PASSING: Elma — Vollan 4-7-0-83. La Center — Lambert 6-15-1-71, Dodson 1-1-0-27.

RECEIVING: Elma — Carter Jacobson 1-26, Richardson 3-57. La Center — Humphrey 1-3, Andrew Scott 3-59, Jayden Schmitz 2-26, Alvarez 1-10.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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