In three days, Camas High School is going to be playing football in the Tacoma Dome for the first time.
“Every year, I go up and watch the best teams in the state play. This year, I don’t have to pay for a ticket,” said senior linebacker Kyle Goodnow. “It’s a dream come true, but we’re not done yet. It’s full steam ahead now.”
When the first Papermakers picked up a football in the small mill town of Camas, they dreamed of this moment. Blood spilled, sweat poured and tears shed on this wild goose chase, but the ultimate goal seemed unreachable. That is until this last decade of dome building at Doc Harris Stadium.
Since 2001, Camas football has made 11 consecutive playoff appearances. In 2005, they captured their first league championship in 36 seasons. It would be the first of three league titles and three state tournament berths between 2005 and 2007. Last season, the Papermakers won their first state playoff game. They had never been closer to the Tacoma Dome, but an overtime loss in the next game turned their dream into a nightmare.
“We got so close last year, the guys would kill to have this chance again,” said senior lineman Scott Feather. “Once we got another opportunity to go to The Dome, we weren’t going to pass it up. This is for everybody who has ever been a part of Camas football. We love having the whole town behind us.”
In the state quarterfinals Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium, the Papermakers shutout the Meadowdale Mavericks of Lynnwood 40-0 to earn a one-way ticket to the Tacoma Dome. Camas (11-1) will play the O’Dea Fighting Irish of Seattle (12-0) in the semifinals Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Head coach Jon Eagle said the Papermakers visualized this moment on a preseason hiking trip at Silver Star Mountain.
“When we reached the top, I told the kids that this is the highest peak in Clark County. Our goal is to still be playing when the first snow hits up here,” Eagle said. “Sure enough, we got our first snow this week and we’re still playing.
“It’s almost unreal,” he added. “I’m watching film on O’Dea right now. This is actually happening. We’re going to The Dome.”
Camas turned five Meadowdale fumbles into four touchdowns Saturday. Anthony Fallin got the pick-up sticks party started by returning a mishandled snap for a 50-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first quarter.
“The ball hit off the guy’s head. He was looking everywhere for it, but I already had it,” Fallin said. “Running down the field, I was scared. I kept looking back and saw all of these blurs. I thought it was the other team, but it turned out to be my teammates.”
The Mavericks fumbled the ball again on their next possession, and Zack Marshall recovered it. The Papermakers missed a field goal on the following drive, but got the ball back on Meadowdale’s third fumble. Zach Eagle turned around in the air and caught a 22-yard pass from Tony Gennaro on the 12-yard line to set up a touchdown run for Marshall.
With a relentless attack on defense, Marshall also carried Camas to several first downs.
“He’s going both ways out there, and he never gets tired,” Coach Eagle said. “To have that kind of an awesome performance at this level on both sides of the ball is unbelievable.”
Kamari Brown picked up the fourth fumble by the Mavericks in the first half. Gennaro then found Jonathan Warner all alone in the right corner of the end zone on a 25-yard touchdown pass.
John Norcross caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Gennaro in the third quarter. Gennaro and Warner then hooked up again on a 34-yard touchdown pass.
“This is what happens when you put all this hard work in like we have all year,” Gennaro said. “It’s so awesome to be able to share this moment with these guys.”
John Ashford put an exclamation point on the defensive effort by sacking the opposing quarterback in the end zone for a safety.
“I got a good step, saw the opportunity and executed it,” Ashford said. “It’s a good moment I’ll always have in my head for the rest of my life.”
In three days, the Papermakers are going to the place where they always dreamed of playing. A dome where state champions are born and immortality is just an arm’s reach away from a football.
“This is a great testament to these kids who worked hard enough to get this opportunity for all of us to enjoy,” Eagle said. “When these kids are driving up I-5 and they see the Tacoma Dome, I want them to be able to say ‘I played in there.’ Not everybody gets to say that.
“We want to make it a memory and something to treasure for the rest of our lives,” he added. “Hopefully, we get to do it twice.”