A season should not be defined by its ending, but by its journey.
The football pads and helmets are packed away. The dreams of these Camas Papermakers didn’t come true, but they will never forget what they accomplished under the lights together in a dense fog of doubt.
Three months ago, people didn’t expect a team with 10 new starters to win a league championship or get back to the state tournament with a 10-0 record. The only ones who believed were the hundreds of football players who showed up on the first day of practice, took an oath as brothers and became a family.
“When someone doubts you, it’s easy to get upset,” said head coach Jon Eagle. “Use that as a gift. What a great motivator it is for somebody to tell you you can’t do something.”
These Papermakers proved all the doubters wrong in the first week of the season, when they defeated state champion Chiawana 17-14. They also beat favorites Skyview and Union to clinch their fifth straight league title.
“The pressure was really high. Last year’s team did everything,” said senior lineman Alex Walker. “Everybody from the scout team, to the coaches and the players made this year possible. From the bottom to the top, we pursued and drove on.”
Through blood, bruises and broken bones, Camas rebuilt the road to state. At some point during the climb, Eagle said the Papermakers plateaued. They were not prepared for the aggressive style Bellarmine Prep brought to Doc Harris Stadium Saturday, and suffered a 20-13 defeat.
The Lions intercepted a Camas pass 45 seconds into the game and returned it for a touchdown. Cole Zarcone pumped oxygen back into the frozen hearts of the Papermakers with an 80-yard touchdown rush, but Bellarmine Prep answered with a 70-yard touchdown play.
The Lions dug their nails into the turf and added six more points.
Hope returned to Camas when James Price turned a short pass from Liam Fitzgerald into a 35-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. All the Papermakers needed was seven more points to tie the score, but they couldn’t get anything going on their final possessions.
“It was not one of our better performances,” Eagle said. “We underestimated the revenge factor Bellarmine Prep had. They really believed they were going to come down here and beat us.”
Revenge is a powerful motivator. Camas defeated Bellarmine Prep 49-21 in the 2013 state semifinals. As bad as the Papermakers wanted to beat Chiawana after losing to them by one point in the 2013 state championship game, Bellarmine Prep wanted to beat Camas. Both teams were vindicated. Unfortunately, the Papermakers were the victims Saturday.
Still, the abrupt ending to this season should take nothing away from the journey.
“To be league champion is a big deal. Going 10-0 is a big deal. Winning a playoff game is a big deal,” Eagle said. “There was a long time when this school didn’t do any of those things.”