What a finish

Camas football team beats state champions at Doc Harris Stadium

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Dane Santos celebrates with his teammates after returning an interception for a 45-yard touchdown. The Camas High School football team defeated defending 4A state champion Chiawana 16-14 Friday, at Doc Harris Stadium.

Nine long months of frustration is over in Camas.

Ever since Chiawana beat the Papermakers 27-26 on a last second touchdown and an extra-point kick in the state championship game, the countdown to this season has been on.

When the clock struck zero at Doc Harris Stadium Friday, the city of Camas celebrated redemption with the Papermakers after a 16-14 victory over their new rivals from Pasco.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” said senior running back and linebacker Reid Conlee. “When we walked into the locker room today, our mentality was ‘finish.’ And in the end, I think that really showed.”

Conlee carried the football to three first downs after Chiawana cut the Camas lead to two points with a 62-yard touchdown strike. James Price also hung on to a deep pass thrown by Papermaker quarterback Liam Fitzgerald to help take those final 4 minutes, 42 seconds off the clock.

“Somebody needed to make a big play. I’m glad that Coach trusted me,” Price said. “When I caught that ball, I knew I did something great for my city.”

After stopping Camas on fourth down during the game’s opening drive, Chiawana scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. The Papermakers answered quickly, as Fitzgerald fired first down passes to Price, Cole Zarcone and Jared Bentley. Price snagged another pass, this time on fourth down, before Chiawana brought the rally to a halt. Camas settled for a 27-yard field goal by Caleb Lightbourn.

The Riverhawks gambled by going for it on fourth down with four yards to go from the Papermaker 12-yard line. Conlee stopped the runner short to get the ball back for Camas.

After both teams punted the ball away, the Papermakers got back into scoring position on a 54-yard run by Zarcone. Bentley then zipped across the field and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald.

Camas took a 10-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. The score would stay that way until midway through the fourth quarter.

Chiawana had chances to put points on the board, but Price intercepted a pass for Camas in the end zone. The Riverhawks fought back to within field goal range, but couldn’t get the kick off before the play clock expired. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed them farther back, and they had to punt.

“Our defense gave up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points,” said Camas head coach Jon Eagle. “When we needed to get a third down of a fourth down stop, they were able to do that.”

Dane Santos delivered the game changer for the Papermakers. The senior intercepted a pass and took it all the way back to the end zone for six big points.

“I could feel it. I never ran that fast in my whole life,” Santos said. “I felt like my team had my back on that whole play. The line got pressure and our coverage was perfect. They set me up for that play.”

Camas knew not to celebrate too early. Chiawana scored another touchdown to keep the outcome up in the air, but this time the Papermakers didn’t give the Riverhawks another chance.

“They scored, but that just picked us up even more,” Santos said. “It’s not about what you do in good situations, it’s about what you do after a bad situation. We just stepped up like brothers. The scoreboard showed how hard we worked.”

Camas should be tested again by Federal Way Friday, at Doc Harris Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Beating the defending state champions takes some of the sting out of what happened to Camas nine months ago, but it’s just a non-league victory.

“If you asked them to trade victories, they wouldn’t do it,” Eagle said. “It’s like getting bucked off a horse. You have to get back on. Here we are, 1-0, and we’re pretty tickled about it.”

Price said the work continues in practice today.

“We can’t afford to look too far ahead,” he said. “We have to work to get better every day if we want to be the best team in the state.”