A Camas state of mind

Football family creates history

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Camas High School football players Drew Clarkson, Michael DiGenova, Zach Eagle and Reilly Hennessey are graciously accepting statewide awards, but it takes a village to make history.

The Papermakers went 13-1 this season and became the school’s first football team to play in the state championship game, at the Tacoma Dome. The 27-26 loss to Chiawana, of Pasco, still stings weeks later. The pain might not completely go away, but this team will always be remembered for what it accomplished.

“It’s humbling to know you’re getting recognition all around the state for all the blood, sweat and tears. We’ve opened people’s eyes and let them know what Camas football is all about,” Hennessey said. “These awards have our names on them, but they really are a reflection of all the people around us.”

Hennessey is the recipient of two major rewards. He is the 2013 Gatorade Washington Football Player of the Year and the Class 4A All-State Player of the Year, selected by the Associated Press. He racked up 3,387 passing yards and 38 touchdowns this season. DiGenova, Eagle, Nate Beasley, James Price, Jorden Payne, Slav Makhalets and Dylan White took those footballs into the end zone. Several times, Hennessey said they made his job look easy.

Eagle earned a first-team selection to the AP all-state team as a wide receiver. He made 65 catches for 1,282 yards and 13 touchdowns. Eagle was a triple threat as a receiver, kick returner and a defensive back. In the state quarterfinal game against Eastlake, of Sammamish, Eagle snagged a 78-yard touchdown pass and then returned a fumble for a touchdown three plays later.

“These awards compliment the community of Camas,” he said. “If you go back five or six years ago, there weren’t too many people from Camas getting all-state honors. It shows that Camas is progressing.”

Beasley became a scoring machine for Camas. He rushed for 1,574 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also caught six touchdown passes, bringing his career total up to 71 touchdowns. Jason Vailea, Cole Zarcone, Brian Kelly and Jordan Del Moral also delivered touchdown runs.

Offense goes nowhere without protection. Clarkson, a first-team all-state lineman, overcame testicular cancer in the offseason before returning to the battlefield without losing a step.

But Clarkson will be the first one to tell you that he was just a spoke on the wheel. Matt Walser and Matt Danis pulled double duty on the offensive and defensive lines. Chris Durrett and Payton Rusu also protected Hennessey’s blind side. Eagle, Payne, Price, DiGenova and White put their bodies on the line when they were not running receiving routes. Alex Walker filled in for Clarkson while he was nursing a hamstring injury.

Clarkson said the bond between these football players was formed long before they become Papermakers. It only got stronger in the past four years.

“Our team is unique in the sense that we have been playing together since we were young,” he said. “Being able to play your senior year with this group of guys is something I will never forget. The way that it ended was heartbreaking, but it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished through all of these years together.”

Camas doesn’t get the ball back without defense. First-team all-state linebacker DiGenova led the way in that effort. It’s hard to forget the Oct. 11 game against Evergreen, when DiGenova returned three fumbles for touchdowns.

“These last few years of playing football with these guys have been the best years of my life,” he said. “You can’t put into words how football takes a group of young guys and turns them into men. It took this group of athletes and turned them into a family.”

Vailea, Josh Ashford, Walser and Danis provided the muscle on the defensive line. Beasley, DiGenova, Eagle, Payne, White, Adam Dawson, Brad Hansen, Gabe Lopes, Michael Johnson, Trevor Wochnick and Dalton Wunderlich chased down those opposing running backs, quarterbacks and receivers. Ashford shared their nickname, “The Black Plague.”

These football players and their coaches give an honorable mention to the fans who never missed a game at Doc Harris Stadium. They also followed the team to Canby, Ore., and Auburn, Vancouver, Sammamish and Tacoma.

“I personally appreciate our fans so much. They didn’t have to come all this way. They did because they love us,” Eagle said. “It makes you want to play that much harder, not only for your coaches and your teammates, but also for those people in the stands.”

There is a lot of love in this town for the Papermaker football team. One loss in a silly little game is not going to change that.

“Just like the people before us who built these roads we’re all driving on right now, we paved a new road that will carry on for generations to come,” Clarkson said. “What we did hopefully will inspire them.”