The La Center Wildcats improved to 7-0 after a late fourth-quarter comeback to beat 1A Trico League opponent Seton Catholic High School, 14-13, on Friday, Sept. 13.
Heading into the big matchup, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association ranked Seton Catholic second in the entire state for the 1A class and La Center ranked 5th.
While it was raining, Seton Catholic had full control of the game. Once the rain stopped in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats gained momentum after a punt return by La Center’s Houston Coyle. Coyle then quarterbacked the Wildcats into Cougar territory making way for Jalen Ward to score to bring the deficit to 13-7 with 4:13 left in the game.
The Wildcats’ defense forced Seton Catholic to a three-and-out following the touchdown. With 2:15 left, the Wildcats took over on offense for a two-play drive where Coyle connected with Parker McKinney twice with the second finding the end zone. The extra point was good, and La Center had the lead with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left.
The Cougars did not back down though. Instead, they marched to field goal range. From La Center’s 22-yard line and still time on the clock for multiple plays, Seton Catholic attempted a razzle-dazzle play in hopes for a touchdown, and Coyle grabbed a game-winning interception.
“We had some missed opportunities. We had a 98-yard drive and didn’t score,” La Center head coach John Lambert said. “Seton came out and played a great game. We got their best. They really went after us, and all the credit to them — they really came to play.”
After an injury to starting quarterback Garrett Maunu earlier in the season, Coyle stepped in at quarterback. La Center still has him for kickoff and punt returns, as well as playing a huge role on defense.
“Houston [Coyle] has a knack for making plays,” Lambert said. “I think he’s the best player in our league. He’s someone who had to switch positions, and he’s still making mistakes at quarterback, … I’ve been really impressed with him and how he’s picked things up and matured as a quarterback.”
The run and passing games for La Center are possible because of an offensive line led by 6-foot, 3-inch, 300-pound Ryan Kawalek, who is committed to play for the University of Idaho Vandals.
“Ryan [Kawalek] is a leader on this team. He’s the guy everyone looks up to,” Lambert said. “He’s an exceptional football player. He’s probably the best lineman we’ve ever had at La Center, and we’ve had some good ones. … It was his leadership and temperament and aggressiveness that helped lead us back in this game.”
The Wildcats are sitting as the front runner for the Trico League as Seton Catholic is now 6-1. The Wildcats still have to play Columbia-White Salmon and rival Castle Rock to close out the season. The rivalry game with Castle Rock is always a tough one, Lambert said.
Columbia-White Salmon High School will be La Center’s last home game of the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20. The big rivalry game will follow at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 at Castle Rock High School.