Saturday’s game: Camas at Skyline, 3 p.m.
Location: Skyline High School, 1122 228th Ave. S.E., in Sammamish
Admission: $9 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens
Greater St. Helens rivals Camas and Skyview left everything on the football field Saturday.
Never before had two teams from the same league clashed in the first round of the state tournament. It may never happen again. If it doesn’t, players, coaches and fans will still have a game to talk about for the rest of their lives.
“It was smash-mouth football. They were fighting for every yard, and so were we,” said Camas linebacker Michael Matthews. “We just had to outlast them, keep fighting and keep the faith. I never wanted to win a game so badly.”
The Papermakers weathered the Storm, and emerged with a 29-22 victory in their final game of the season at Doc Harris Stadium.
Skyview took a 22-21 lead off of a Camas fumble at the start of the fourth quarter. The Storm maintained advantage until Camas finally found its groove on offense in the last three minutes.
“It’s easy to win by 40. To come through adversity like that really means a lot. I feel so much closer to my team,” said Camas defensive back Jack Colletto. “The camaraderie of the team was excellent. It really paid off in those last three minutes for us.”
Jared Bentley, Hunter Bruno and Jordan Del Moral completed three consecutive first downs to bring the Papermakers to the 23-yard line with 2:23 left.
“We just finally started getting our momentum. We went out there and did what we practiced all week,” said quarterback Liam Fitzgerald. “It was rhythm on that last drive when we didn’t have rhythm all game.”
Bentley then snagged a 23-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to help Camas regain the lead. Fitzgerald and Bentley connected again on the 2-point conversion to put the Papermakers up by seven.
“I remember looking up at the crowd and seeing everybody waving their arms,” Bentley said. “It’s a thrill. It’s kind of like skydiving.”
Camas needed one more stop. Cooper McNatt already had an interception in his first game back after suffering a separated shoulder. He thwarted Skyview’s final attempt by picking off another pass.
“I just left it all out there. I was either going out on a stretcher or a loss,” McNatt said. “It’s tough to be out. Now that I’m helping my brothers, and we’re playing well, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
After one more first down run by Del Moral, Camas took a knee and savored the victory.
“It was a real football game,” said head coach Jon Eagle. “Hats off to the defensive players who made big plays when we needed them. The pick six, interceptions and fumbles are easy to see. I’m talking about the guys who are fighting through the trenches, making those stops and forcing those punts. Those kinds of plays are what kept us in it.”
Camas grabbed a 7-0 lead in 17 seconds. That’s all the time it took for Drake Owen to return the opening kick off for a 95-yard touchdown.
Skyview turned the tables on Camas with a safety and an 83-yard touchdown pass to take a 9-7 lead before the end of the first quarter.
Defense had taken over the game, and offenses kept punting away.
Camas finally broke through following an interception by McNatt. Del Moral combined three plays for 48 yards. Fitzgerald took the ball for the final three yards and a touchdown to give the Papermakers a 14-9 lead before halftime.
The Storm surged into scoring range with about four minutes left in the third quarter. Colletto turned the tide for Camas by returning an interception for a 94-yard touchdown.
“As soon as I got the pick, I knew all my brothers had my back,” Colletto said. “I turned around and saw my teammates coming after me and running with me.”
The Storm hadn’t let up yet. An 80-yard touchdown pass brought Skyview right back within five points.
“Skyview had a great game plan,” Eagle said. “Those kids played with a lot of heart.”
Camas (11-0) travels to Sammamish to play Skyline (10-1) in the state quarterfinals Saturday. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.
Several Papermakers walked off the field at Doc Harris Stadium saying Skyview gave them the toughest football game they have ever played. They hope it prepares them for the road ahead. They are the last team standing in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
“Just the feeling of everyone here being happy and not taking the loss like last year,” Fitzgerald said. “It shows how hard we want to keep this season going. We love practice. We love being together. It’s all worth it when we win these games.”