Tom Lambert runs for two touchdowns and adds two passing scores as the Wildcats defeat the defending Class 2B state champs
LA CENTER — Now they know. They really know.
Starting the season 3-0 was a good thing for the La Center Wildcats. Now, though, they are 4-0. Now, they are starting to realize this could be the start of something special after dispatching the defending Class 2B state champions.
Quarterback Tom Lambert rushed for 136 yards and two scores, plus he threw two touchdown passes, running back Bryten Schmitz rushed for 137 yards and a score, and the La Center defense harassed Kalama all night in a 36-8 victory in a non-league game played at La Center High School.
“It’s for real. Everything we put in, everything we did in the offseason, it’s paying off. It’s night and day with how we look,” Tom Lambert said.
“We feel like we are for real,” Schmitz said. “We’ll tell it to everybody, and we’ll prove it every night.”
That’s not to say the Wildcats feel they have arrived. They’re just on their way.
“These first four games … was more of an indicator of maybe we’ll have a postseason run,” offensive lineman and linebacker Max Muffett said. “We still have to work hard and improve all the way up to Week 9 and beyond.”
“Our offense is great … and I think the defense is really kicking butt this year,” linebacker Hunter Mallicoat said. “We’ve learned to shut ‘em down pretty good. I like how we’re sitting this year.”
Kalama had gone 26-2 the previous two seasons, winning the past two 2B state titles.
La Center reached the Class 1A semifinals in 2016 and 2017, but then started 0-4 last year.
“They were certainly humbled last year,” La Center coach John Lambert said, adding that the struggles in 2018 prepared these guys for this season. “They don’t take anything for granted. They understand what they need to do to be successful.”
Oh, and that 0-4 start last year? It was the same schedule as this year. That is considered a turnaround.
One way to keep Kalama from scoring is to keep its offense off the field.
La Center took 10 minutes off the clock on the first drive of the game, setting the tone with a 19-play, 90-yard drive. Tom Lambert found Irving Alvarez on a 16-yard touchdown pass.
At one point in the third quarter, La Center’s offense had run 62 plays when Kalama’s offense had run just 20 plays. That just does not happen to state champions. But it did Friday.
Muffett had an interception and long return to set up La Center’s second touchdown.
“I’ve been waiting for one of those for a while now,” Muffett said.
Andrew Scott caught a 19-yard pass from Lambert to make it 15-0 early in the second quarter.
The La Center defense stopped a fourth-and-1 on the next series, and the La Center offense capitalized five plays later. Lambert scored on a 15-yard run to make it 22-0.
Kalama would get the next touchdown — a 5-yard run from quarterback Jackson Esary. The Chinooks also got the ball back before the half, hoping to make it a one-score game.
Mallicoat and the La Center defense was not having any of that. Mallicoat got a sack on the first play of that drive, and the Chinooks did nothing more.
“I just try to get in there and get him. I hit him a lot,” Mallicoat said. “They have a really good quarterback. He’s a good scrambler. I just tried to hit him and take him down every time.”
La Center opened the second half with a surprise onside kick, recovered the ball, and then went on to score on a 6-yard touchdown run from Schmitz to make it 29-8.
The Wildcats defense then earned a three-and-out. Kalama punted, and the Chinooks ended up without any true scoring opportunities in the second half.
Lambert capped the scoring with a 39-yard touchdown run, putting him over the century mark in rushing yards.
“I feel it was the best team win of the season,” Lambert said.
In all, the Wildcats rushed for 313 yards.
“It all starts with the line. We have a good line. They all really put hard work in practice, and then you see it in games. It makes our job easy,” Schmitz said. “It’s all about the brotherhood. We all want to play good for each other.”
Muffett appreciated the love from the running back.
“It all starts up front … but we wouldn’t get the satisfaction of our blocking if they weren’t running the ball. They run for us,” Muffett said. “These last four games, that shows the line we have.”
These last four games also show that the La Center Wildcats are back, they are for real, and they are ready to get into Trico League play.
LA CENTER 36, KALAMA 8
Kalama 0 8 0 0 — 8
La Center 8 14 7 7 — 36
LC — Irving Alvarez 16 pass from Tom Lambert (Lambert run)
LC — Andrew Scott 19 pass from Lambert (Sean Fox kick)
LC — Lambert 15 run (Fox kick)
K — Jackson Esary 5 run (Bradey O’Neil pass from Esary)
LC — Bryten Schmitz 6 run (Fox kick)
LC — Lambert 39 run (Fox kick)
RUSHING — Kalama: Esary 14-35, Elijah Haynes 3-5, O’Neil 1-0, Damien Cochran 1-12. Team 1-(minus 2). La Center: Schmitz 18-137, Lambert 26-136, Alvarez 1-1, Andrew Kysar 7-21, Jeremy Humphrey 4-11, Matthew Pettit 1-(minus 2), Hunter Mallicoat 2-9.
PASSING — Kalama: Esary 8-15-2-136. La Center: Lambert 6-13-1-59.
RECEIVING — Kalama: Max Cox 5-56, Nathan Anderson 3-80. La Center: Scott 2-29, Humphrey 2-10, Alvarez 1-1, Micah Adams 1-4.
Union 21, Chiawana 20
Camas 24, Bellevue 7
Skyview 55, Rogers 21
Mountain View 24, Heritage 7
Prairie 38, Battle Ground 6
Evergreen 49, Rochester 7
Hudson’s Bay 33, Franklin 14
Woodland 55, R.A. Long 7
Hockinson 56, Columbia River 9
Ridgefield 20, Mark Morris 13
W.F. West 23, Washougal 7
King’s Way Christian 67, Riverside 0