The La Center football parents and other family members should have already known the potential for a holiday schedule. After all, the Wildcats did this last year, too.
Still, just to be sure, La Center coach John Lambert had a meeting with the parents before the 2017 season, reminding them that if all goes the way of the Wildcats, they should not make out-of-town plans for Thanksgiving Day.
There are four teams in each classification that are still playing past Thanksgiving. That means using the holiday for more preparation.
“It’s not a bad thing. If we’re practicing on Thanksgiving day, it’s an awesome thing, and the kids love it,” Lambert said.
Thursday was another practice day, although it was an early session. Originally planned for 10 a.m., players and coaches agreed instead to meet at 8 a.m.
At this time of the year, it is not a “grind-it-out, three-hour workout,” Lambert said. Instead, it was just a chance to get after it and have some fun.
The Wildcats planned on another practice Friday, then they will head north Saturday morning for their semifinal matchup against Meridian. Kickoff is 4 p.m. at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
La Center is fired up about making it to back to the semifinals. The team lost in this round last season to Connell. The Wildcats are looking for their first appearance in the state championship game.
However, the team also suffered some tough news this week when the team’s leading receiver and co-Defensive Player of the Year of the Trico League was ruled out. Evan Honore, a senior, announced on social media his “retirement’ from high school football after he learned he had two fractures in his back. He was injured in the quarterfinal game but kept playing, not knowing how bad he had hurt himself.
Lambert said Honore will be with the team for the road trip, but will not be on the field during game time.
The Wildcats could use him, too.
Meridian is led by quarterback Simon Burkett, who plans on signing with Eastern Washington University. Burkett now has 40 touchdown passes this season.
“He can run. He can throw. He’s big and athletic,” Lambert said. “We’ll have our hands full, for sure.”
Meridian’s great passing game also opens up plenty of opportunities for its rushing attack.
“It’s a tough combination,” Lambert said.
Meridian is 12-0, averaging 39.6 points per game. La Center is 10-2, winners of 10 in a row, and averages 39.3 points per game.
The Wildcats are ready for the challenge, knowing they survived one huge obstacle just a week ago when they traveled to Puyallup to beat Cascade Christian in three overtimes.
This playoff run and last year’s run combine for quite the experience for La Center’s players, and makes for an experienced team.
“It helps because the kids have been here before and they know what to expect,” Lambert said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a good game.”
Wyatt Dodson leads the Wildcats’ ground attack. He has 1,450 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Quarterback Hayden Williamson has thrown for more than 1,300 yards, plus he has 16 touchdowns against two interceptions. He also has seven rushing touchdowns.
Honore’s season ends with 625 yards receiving with seven touchdowns. Jackson Leslie should step in as the go-to receiver now. He already leads the team with eight TD receptions.
Defensively, the Wildcats would love to see Wyatt Siebert continue to do his thing, especially against a great passing team. Siebert has 11 sacks.
The secondary, already to be challenged, will be missing Honore and his eight interceptions.
Still, at this time of year, there are no excuses. All teams have injuries. By Saturday, it has to be a next-man up mentality.
Lambert said he expects a decent La Center crowd to make the four-hour trip Saturday.
“It’s always fun to get the community involved in a playoff run like this,” the coach said.
All of the Wildcats, all of their fans, hope they will have another road trip the first week of December. That one would only be two hours, to the Tacoma Dome.