Hearts were broken when the clock struck zero.
The Camas High School football team lost its lead in the final seconds Saturday, at the Tacoma Dome.
There would be no state championship celebration. No time to drive down the field for one last shot at redemption. The season was just simply and painfully over.
“Right now, I’m kind of speechless,” said senior defensive back Michael Johnson. “I’m really happy with how our team played. We just kept coming and we fired back. I don’t know what happened in those last 55 seconds.”
It will be remembered as the miracle minute that propelled Chiawana, of Pasco, past the Papermakers 27-26. Dre Dorton delivered a 53-yard touchdown reception to cut the Camas lead down to six points. The Riverhawks then recovered their onside kick to get the ball right back.
Quarterback Joey Zamora fired a pass that got tipped up and landed in the hands of a Riverhawks receiver for an incredible gain. Camas deflected the next ball thrown into the end zone, but the Papermakers were penalized for pass interference. This brought Chiawana to the 9-yard line with 15 seconds left in the game.
Camas defended two runs, but the clock stopped at five seconds because Chiawana completed a first down. With time left for one more play, Zamora fired a 4-yard touchdown pass to Blake Bishop to tie the score. A kick through the uprights by Matt Winn awarded the Riverhawks the championship by one point.
“Our defense played lights out. They should be very proud,” said Camas head coach Jon Eagle. “You can say all you want about what happened at the end. It was 26-13 for a long time because of what our defense did.”
Camas got shut out in the first quarter for the first time this season. Chiawana led 7-0 until Johnson picked up a fumbled football and took it all the way back for a 63-yard touchdown. But, a missed extra-point kick kept the Papermakers down by one. The Riverhawks responded with another touchdown to take a 13-6 lead before halftime.
Camas outscored Chiawana 20-0 in the third quarter. Nate Beasley grabbed a beautiful catch over his shoulder and turned it into a 74-yard touchdown. Slav Makhalets made an incredible snag on fourth down and kept his legs moving on a 33-yard dash into the end zone to give the Papermakers their first lead of the night.
“To score my first touchdown, I have no words for that,” Makhalets said.
Michael DiGenova caught the 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Reilly Hennessey to put Camas up 20-13. Beasley added a 44-yard touchdown run before the quarter ended.
It all started to unravel for Camas in the fourth quarter. Johnson and Beasley both had interceptions on defense, but the Papermakers couldn’t turn any of their final possessions into points.
On one of those drives, Camas got down to the 1-yard line only to get pushed back because of its 10th false start penalty in the game. The Papermakers tried for a field goal, but it was blocked. Two other Camas drives ended on fourth down.
“We had multiple opportunities to win the game and were not able to finish it,” Eagle said.
Chiawana hung in there long enough and played one monumental minute of football. It doesn’t change the hard work and sacrifices these Papermakers made for the past four years.
“We’re here because of the time and effort of our seniors,” Eagle said. “Time at practice, time in the weight room, time to go to football camps, and time doing all the things people don’t see to hone their craft.”
If there is any sort of silver lining after this heartbreaking loss on the final day of the season — these Camas football players found out they truly are a family. Nothing can break this band of brothers.
“I have no regrets,” said senior defensive tackle Jason Vailea. “Each and every one of us did the best we could. There’s nothing more you can ask for than playing your heart out.”