La Center, Montesano salute veterans prior to playoff game

La Center’s season ends with a district playoff loss

The La Center Wildcats and Montesano Bulldogs were about to compete on the football field, and not just in any game.

A playoff game.

One team would be going to state.

The other would be done for the year.

Still, even with the stakes so high, the two teams united as one to salute a special group of people.

La Center and Montesano players entered the stadium together, carrying flags to salute veterans in attendance. Montesano would go on to beat La Center 42-20 in the Class 1A district football playoff game. Photo by Paul Valencia
La Center and Montesano players entered the stadium together, carrying flags to salute veterans in attendance. Montesano would go on to beat La Center 42-20 in the Class 1A district football playoff game. Photo by Paul Valencia

The Wildcats and Bulldogs entered the stadium at Woodland High School as one. Montesano players wearing white. La Center in blue. With some players carrying American flags, while others carrying flags representing the service branches of the U.S. military.

The public address announcer had asked for any veterans in attendance to come down to the track in front of the grandstand, so the players, cheerleaders, and the rest of the crowd could cheer them on before supporting their teams during the game. 

By the end of the night, Montesano fans got to cheer the loudest. The Bulldogs surprised the Trico League champions with an impressive rushing attack in a 42-20 victory.

Even in defeat, La Center quarterback Darren Cepeda wanted to thank veterans again, less than a week before Veterans Day.

“We just want to support our troops. At the end of the day, they’re the heroes.They’re the ones fighting for us,” Cepeda said. “They’re the reason why I get to come out here with my friends, with my teammates, and play football and play the game I love to play. Thank you to all the troops. We love you.”

As far as the game, La Center scored first on a touchdown pass from Cepeda to Jalen Ward.

Then it was all Montesano for the rest of the half, into the third quarter.

Isaiah Pierce rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes, leading Montesano to the state playoffs for the 15th consecutive season. 

“We knew they were going to compete, so we worked hard all week,” Pierce said. “We had to work all four quarters for this.”

Montesano scored touchdowns off of two La Center turnovers in the second quarter to take a 28-6 lead. Then the Bulldogs scored on the final play of the third quarter, one play after another La Center turnover, to make it 35-6.

“We didn’t play our best football, but our kids gave a ton of effort,” La Center coach John Lambert said. “It’s disappointing for sure. But a lot of these kids are going to come back and build off this and grow from it. I’m hoping it’s impactful that way.”

Cepeda scored on a 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He also found Colby Hylton on a 77-yard touchdown pass.

Cepeda threw for 164 yards and two touchdown passes, and he rushed for 56 yards in his final game for the Wildcats. Earlier in the week, he learned he was named the MVP of the Trico League. 

“I’ll remember these moments and cherish this for the rest of my life,” Cepeda said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we have a great group of young guys who will come back next year and continue the legacy.”

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