A 208-mile bus ride to play the runner up in the 2014 Class 4A state championship football game did not phase the Papermakers.
Camas High School turned a 28-0 advantage at halftime into a 35-14 victory against the Chiawana Riverhawks Friday, at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium in Pasco.
Quarterback Liam Fitzgerald completed 21 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Jared Bentley grabbed eight catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Defenders David Aarhus and Sean Ramage snagged interceptions.
“Any time you come out to the Tri-Cities and get a win, that’s a pretty big deal,” said head coach Jon Eagle. “These kids just started classes. Then, they had to get on a bus for four hours and play a pretty good football team. It’s a hard thing to do.”
Camas didn’t come out flat. Manase Nguamo returned the opening kick off 44 yards to get the Papermakers rolling. After a few more plays, Fitzgerald connected with Bentley on a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Chiawana and Camas traded punts. After the Papermakers got the ball back following a three-and-out defensive stand, they marched 96 yards down the field to score again. Tyler Blackwell finished the drive by catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald.
Camas forced Chiawana to punt again. Fitzgerald found Bentley on a 46-yard strike. This set up Nguamo for a 1-yard run across the goal line for a touchdown.
The Papermakers got the ball right back on an interception by Aarhus. Jordan Del Moral then reached the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown dash.
Camas took a 28-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Chiawana got on the scoreboard for the first time on a 72-yard drive into the end zone to begin the third quarter.
The Papermakers turned the ball over on downs during their next possession, but the defense picked up the offense. The Riverhawks couldn’t get anything going on their next three plays and had to punt away again.
Bentley caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to give Camas a 35-7 lead late in the third quarter. Chiawana scored one more touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“There’s things we know we can work on. The kids know that, and that makes it easier,” Eagle said. “Everybody has a plan about getting better, and they are going about doing it. We just want to keep building depth at each position and get more kids on the field. That’s the goal.”
Eagle said a crowd of 400 to 500 Camas football fans made the 208-mile drive to watch the first football game of the season. Players and coaches took advantage of the long bus ride home to celebrate together.
The Papermakers have another 158-mile road trip to play Federal Way Saturday. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.
This journey is only just beginning.
“There’s camaraderie and team bonding that goes along with these road trips,” Eagle said. “I think these kids know we have a chance to be a good team. We have things to work on, but they are excited.”