Thousands of fans filled both sides of McKenzie Stadium Friday to see the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked high school football teams clash in the rain.
Fans threw powder, changed costumes and held up flashlights, and that was before the football was even kicked down the field to start the game.
“I looked around at the beginning, and it was nuts. Union had a great crowd and we had a great crowd. There’s nowhere else I wanted to be than in the middle of all that,” said Camas High School senior linebacker Reid Conlee.
Conlee said he has friends that go to Camas and Union. Fans talked about the game all week long, but the Papermakers took care of business on the field and beat the Titans 37-20.
Cole Zarcone rushed for 176 yards and scored three touchdowns. Liam Fitzgerald racked up 288 passing yards, and James Price made 11 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a hard fought game. We misfired a little bit, but we gathered our poise and played like we can play,” said head coach Jon Eagle. “What a great atmosphere and what a great moment. We’re really blessed and fortunate to play in a game like this.”
Camas set the tone on defense. Once the first snap sailed beyond Union quarterback Nolan Henry, Manase Nguamo brought him down in the back field for a loss of 16 yards. The Papermakers stopped the next two runs, and the Titans were forced to punt. Another bad snap, and the ball bouncing out of the back of the end zone, awarded Camas with a 2-0 lead.
“That’s how you start off a game,” Nguamo said. “Just the screaming, that’s all I remember. The crowd screaming, my teammates screaming and the pads hitting. That’s all you can hear.”
The Papermakers and Titans traded possessions, before Camas became the first team to sustain a drive in the downpour. Zarcone zipped into the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Papermakers a 9-0 advantage before the end of the first quarter.
“I love the rivalry. It was great to have a four quarter game,” Zarcone said. “I’m very impressed with how we played. It was a great team effort, for sure.”
Jack Baur brought the Titans to life with a 63-yard interception return to the 7-yard line. Union finally got on the board with a touchdown.
Zarcone picked up huge chunks of yards behind his bulldozing offensive linemen. Fitzgerald also started to find Price and Jared Bentley open down field. The 10-play drive culminated with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone by Zarcone.
“I give a huge shout out to the O-line. They’re the reason we had success running the ball,” Zarcone said. “I was just focusing on getting first downs. My mind was set on the pie line and doing whatever I needed to do to get there.”
Union answered with a 42-yard strike to Keithen Shepard. The Titans scored another touchdown three plays later to get it back to a two-point game.
Price and Fitzgerald connected three times on the next drive. It ended when Price leaped up and snagged a 23-yard touchdown pass in the end zone. Camas took a 23-14 lead into the locker room at halftime, but not before a scary injury to the Union quarterback brought everything to a halt.
Blindsided by a couple of Papermakers, Henry hit his head on the turf as he went down. The game was delayed for 20 minutes as they waited for paramedics to take him to the hospital. Henry had a CAT scan to determined if he suffered a concussion. It came back negative. This was a huge relief to the players, coaches and fans of both schools.
The Papermakers started to put the game away in the third quarter. They completed an 11-play march down the field and Zarcone finished it off with his third touchdown. Union reached the end zone one more time after taking advantage of a blocked punt, but then Camas delivered the knockout blow.
Blake Roy got his fingertips on a sizzling pass thrown by Fitzgerald. He collided with a defender and the ball got tipped up. Roy stayed with it and came down with a fantastic tumbling catch to keep the drive alive.
“I tipped it up, saw it in the air and was able to come down with it,” Roy said. “That kind of changed the momentum of our whole drive. We were able to stay together and push it in on the run.”
After having his touchdown run called back because of a penalty, Bryan Kelly retraced his steps and dove across the goal line again to put the finishing touches on a 17-point victory.
The Papermakers (7-0) stand alone on top of the 4A Greater St. Helens League, but there is more work to do. Camas welcomes Mountain View to town for its homecoming game Friday, at Doc Harris Stadium. The Papermakers return to McKenzie Stadium Oct. 31, to play Heritage.
“It’s great to see us all come together. I think we proved people wrong with our unity,” Roy said. “Nothing is done yet. We have to stay focused and not take any team lightly.”