Columbia High puts its two-game Trico Division winning streak on the line this Friday night at La Center.
The Bruins and the Wildcats last met in October 2002, in CHS Stadium. That was homecoming night for Columbia, which hadn't won a homecoming game in three seasons.
La Center came into last year's contest undefeated and in first place atop Trico standings.
But the Bruins came up with a defensive game plan that stymied the Wildcats' powerful double-wing offense, holding it scoreless in the second half and to 242 total yards.
Columbia had fewer yards of offense but still won the game, 21-14, behind the running of quarterback Jon Bryan, whose 12-yard touchdown run with four and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter proved to be the game-winner.
This year, La Center isn't undefeated (it lost its season opener to Class 3A Camas, 22-14), but it is tied for the league lead with Ridgefield, at 3-0, and ranked 14th in one state 2A poll.
The Wildcats (5-1 overall) have scored 33 or more points in five of their six games and are averaging 39.2 points per game. Their defense is allowing 16.8 ppg.
"They're tough this year," Bruins Coach Scott Ross said. "They're a pretty sound football team all-around that doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
La Center's key player on offense is junior quarterback Chris Williamson, the brother of 2002 Trico defensive player of the year Josh Williamson.
Williamson led La Center to its first victory in Woodland in nearly half a century, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Merle Bloyed with 52 seconds remaining last Thursday to lift the Wildcats over the Beavers, 38-34.
For the game, Williamson completed 7-of-8 passes for 146 yards and three scores. He also ran for a touchdown.
"La Center's been running the double-wing for several years now, so they've gotten to be pretty darn good at it," Ross noted. "They'll nickel and dime you into a false sense of security, then hit you with the occasional big play. If you let them get rolling, they'll run right over you."
Columbia plans to counter with the defensive scheme that derailed La Center's drive toward last year's Trico championship.
"We'll go in with the same defense we've used the last couple of years, and if we execute it correctly, we can be successful at stopping them," Ross said.
The Bruins' defense will be bolstered by the return of senior nose guard Jesse Trosper and senior defensive back/wingback Marcus Giovannoni.
Trosper missed the Stevenson game after reinjuring a knee against Ilwaco, and Giovannoni sat out the second half last week after injuring an ankle midway through the second quarter.
"Jesse had a big game for us last year against La Center, and Marcus is a key player for us on offense and defense," Ross said. "And, with our lack of depth, we'll need every body at our disposal because it's going to be a physical game."