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    VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -- The final tally on the scoreboard doesn’t matter much, but the opportunity granted for the kids to even compete was a win for all involved in this middle of winter prep football Saturday where natural joy bottled up for more than a year.

Fort Vancouver H.S. and La Center H.S., safely played and the cheerleaders were rooting on their classmates with no one else allowed down in Kiggins Bowl.

“It’s ready nostalgic, but at the same time, I kind of wish it was a Friday night, like how it used to be,” Emma Elgart, Fort Vancouver H.S. Senior cheerleader, said.

Saturday’s 1A Trico League opener between the Trappers and Wildcats was missing a lot on the outside for sure. No band, no fans, no Moms nor Dads, but it sure filled the cold void on their insides.

“Our season is already cut in half, but you just to be thankful for what you’re given, five games, that’s better than zero,” Tom Lambert, La Center H.S. Senior, said.

While some watchers peered through the chain-link fence or viewed the online stream, one father and son were between the lines.

“Before the game today, I was almost crying. I was like, geez, I got five games left, and there no postseason to look forward to or anything,” Lambert said. “I am just taking it all in, everything.”

The LCHS senior QB wasn’t sure if he and the Class of 2021 would ever get this chance to enjoy the game and escape their teenage pandemic life of not a whole heck of a lot going on.

“It’s so difficult for the kids. The only thing they could do is be with their friends, and I’m sure they aren’t social distancing and wearing masks there. So, we have them in a safe environment here where they are wearing masks,” John Lambert, La Center H.S. Head Coach, said.

Coach Lambert has led La Center for more than two decades. Plenty of time to dream and now truly savor what it means to watch his own son captain the ‘Cats during this five-week, now four left in their winter schedule.

“I have two cheerleaders on the sidelines that are mine, and I was worried we wouldn’t get that opportunity,” he said.

No postgame handshakes in a 58-0 final; it was head nods and waves on the freshly thawed turf as a solution was found to get the kids back in the game of full-contact football like their traditional fall sport classmates in soccer, volleyball and cross country. It’s an opportunity.

“We’ve lost kids, not to covid but because of covid,” Lambert said. “Some went to work; some got their GED and they are missing out on this.”

Those Friday Night Lights return this week for the large schools in Washington, and the following week, things will kick in the Beaver State for those schools and districts that have opted into a six-week, 11-man schedule.

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