Legacy at La Center: Seniors say goodbye to football program

The La Center Wildcats celebrated Veterans Day on Friday. All veterans were admitted to the state playoff game for free. Photo by Mike Schultz
The La Center Wildcats celebrated Veterans Day on Friday. All veterans were admitted to the state playoff game for free. Photo by Mike Schultz

Cashmere ends La Center’s season with a 22-17 victory

The finality … it’s crushing.

There they are, league champions, holding the No. 6 seed and playing in the Class 1A state football playoffs. They even took a quick 14-0 lead.

It was an incredible start for the La Center Wildcats.

The rest of the game, though, did not go La Center’s way.

Cashmere, with an incredible defensive effort, rallied, scored the next 22 points and walked off the field with a 22-17 victory at Woodland High School on Friday night.

And just like that, it is over for the La Center Wildcats.

The season, yes.

And that immediate feeling is devastation for a team that had higher expectations. No doubt.

Still, there is part of the season that will last forever. 

For the seniors, it’s not just a season that came to an end, but also the end of their high school football careers. And regardless of the outcome of one game, it has been special for those Wildcats.

Clayton Muffett, a lineman and linebacker, addressed the team on the field after the game, as the Wildcats were trying to come to grips with the loss. 

“There is not a program like La Center,” Muffett said. “I’ve been going to Coach Lambert’s youth camps since I could.”

Clayton Muffett, a senior from La Center, addresses the team after Cashmere beat the Wildcats on Friday night in the Class 1A state football playoffs. Muffett and the other La Center seniors have left a lasting legacy, according to coach John Lambert. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clayton Muffett, a senior from La Center, addresses the team after Cashmere beat the Wildcats on Friday night in the Class 1A state football playoffs. Muffett and the other La Center seniors have left a lasting legacy, according to coach John Lambert. Photo by Mike Schultz

John Lambert has been the head coach at La Center longer than any of this year’s players have been alive. 

Muffett and his siblings have been all about the La Center Wildcats all of their lives. Growing up, Muffett said there was no doubt in his mind he was going to give it all for his school, his community. He said he could never imagine playing anywhere else.

“The atmosphere here is truly different,” Muffett said. “You can’t beat it. There are teams that talk about brotherhood, and I  don’t think there is a brotherhood like La Center. Win or lose, we’re always together.”

On offense and defense, Muffett was a part of just about everything on this team.

“I played a big role as a leader. I tried to play as a leader and not necessarily the star player,” Muffett said. “I knew my role was to try to lead this team.”

In fact, in defeat, he questioned himself, wondering if he could have done more on Friday night. 

But, in the same breath, he also noticed younger players stepping up their leadership roles during the game, even when things were going sideways for the Wildcats.

“There are some younger guys I’m really proud of for stepping in,” Muffett said. “That’s kind of the legacy I tried to leave at La Center. You gotta have someone there who will lead you.”

This La Center team has a ton of young talent, too. The leading rusher, Jalen Ward, is a junior. The quarterback, Tru Feldman, who scored two touchdowns Friday, is a sophomore. 

True Feldman, La Center’s quarterback, had two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz
True Feldman, La Center’s quarterback, had two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jalen Ward rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries on Friday night for the La Center Wildcats. Cashmere would rally to win the game. Ward, a junior, will be a senior leader next season. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jalen Ward rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries on Friday night for the La Center Wildcats. Cashmere would rally to win the game. Ward, a junior, will be a senior leader next season. Photo by Mike Schultz

Houston Coyle, a sophomore, had two interceptions for the La Center defense on Friday.

“Our seniors, we’re going to miss them. They’re a big part of our team,” Coyle said. “These seniors, I love them. But we also have a good future.”

Houston Coyle, a sophomore, had two interceptions for the La Center defense on Friday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Houston Coyle, a sophomore, had two interceptions for the La Center defense on Friday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Levi Giles, who has done a little bit of everything for La Center through the years, will be graduating at the end of this academic year. His run with La Center football is done, but he’ll always support the team.

“The program that we built here the last four years with our seniors is so special, along with the leadership from the past years,” Giles said. “We have one of the best coaching staffs in the state. I’m so proud of all of these guys. We gave it our all out here. Happy to be part of this team, this special team.”

Just moments after such a stunning defeat, it is difficult to process how it happened. Rather than talk about execution and decision making, Lambert talked about his team’s heart.

“I was proud of how hard they worked and the effort they gave,” Lambert said. “It’s no fun losing, obviously, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort and drive. They gave it everything they had. We just came up short.”

If next year’s team does better than this one, well, next year’s team will be able to thank this year’s seniors.

“I was just really happy with what the seniors have left for the underclassmen and the expectations and the work ethic on and off the field,” Lambert said. “That legacy will last. Because of that, we’re going to have a bright future.”

Clayton Muffett shares a moment with his father Win after La Center’s loss in the Class 1A state football playoffs. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clayton Muffett shares a moment with his father Win after La Center’s loss in the Class 1A state football playoffs. Photo by Mike Schultz

Class 2A football

For the second week in a row, the Washougal Panthers found themselves in a top-this game. With one team making a play and the other responding. All. Game. Long.

A week ago, Washougal survived a thriller in the district playoff.

This week, in the opening round of the state playoffs, Washougal came up just short. 

In a game with five lead changes, Highline prevailed 30-27. 

The Panthers’ season comes to an end with a 9-2 record and a 2A Greater St. Helens League championship.


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