The Camas football family and community punched their tickets to the state championship game in the Tacoma Dome.
A sell out crowd on both sides of McKenzie Stadium were on the edge of their seats watching the Papermakers conquer the Sumner Spartans 45-21 in the semifinals of the 4A state tournament Saturday.
“I definitely see here in this crowd a lot of Papermakers from the past. Football players from last year, football players from the year before and football players from years ago,” said senior defensive lineman Marshall McIvor. “I can’t say enough for where they have put this team, all the fundraising and just getting us on the map. We’re doing it for them.”
Camas (13-0) and Richland (13-0) will clash for the 4A state championship Saturday, Dec. 3, inside the Tacoma Dome. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
“This is a dream since I was a little kid playing little kid football,” said senior defensive linebacker Tanner Howington. “When I was a freshman, I went up to the dome and watched the 2013 team. Unfortunately, it ended in a way we don’t want to repeat.”
Back in 2013, Camas lost the state title to Chiawana on the last play of the game. After failing to advance past the state quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015, the Papermakers finally have another opportunity to win that big trophy they have been chasing for years. Camas also made it to the semifinals in the Tacoma Dome in 2011 and 2012.
“I watched that last game in the dome, and in my mind, I was thinking, ‘We’ll be back sometime and we’ll win it for those guys. I will play here,'” Howington said. “Now I get the privilege, which is huge. Especially with my brothers I’ve been playing with forever.”
Camas kicked off the game Saturday with a trademark 80-yard drive into the end zone. Quarterback Jack Colletto eluded the swarming Spartans and delivered an 8-yard touchdown pass to Michael Matthews before getting tackled.
Sumner responded with a surge to the Camas 37-yard line, but then Cooper McNatt picked off a pass in the red zone to get the ball back for the Papermakers. Camas turned to the offensive line and Matthews again for another touchdown. Dakota Napierkowski cleared the road and Matthews accelerated 8-yards into the end zone.
“Every day in practice, we’re always going as hard as we can every single week,” Napierkowski said. “And we show it on the field.”
Down 14-0, Sumner came alive with a touchdown drive that seemed to take Camas out of its groove. Drake Owen suffered a scary hit while looking up to try and catch a punt. The Papermakers were concerned for their teammate. A halftime break allowed them time to get re-focused.
Camas kicked off to Sumner at the beginning of the third quarter, but it wasn’t long before the Spartans punted the ball back to the Papermakers. Ryan Rushall made a sensational 29-yard diving snag on third down to get Camas into scoring position. Michael Boyle then kicked a 34-yard field goal.
The Papermakers increased their lead to 17 points when Luke Bruno intercepted a pass at midfield and returned it for a 51-yard touchdown.
“I just jumped the route like my coaches told me, and got phenomenal blocking from my guys,” Bruno said. “This team is like none other. Every man steps up for each other.”
Sumner rallied back with a touchdown pass and an interception return for a touchdown to get within three points of Camas with a few minutes left in the third quarter.
“You’re going up against a team that’s 12-0. They’re going to make a run,” said Camas head coach Jon Eagle. “You just got to hold on tight and respond. All great teams respond, and our kids responded.”
The Papermakers blew the Spartans out of the stadium with a 21-0 fourth quarter. Colletto crossed the goal line for a touchdown at the start of the quarter, the Camas defense forced a fumble and Will Schultz recovered it. Boyle nailed another field goal, but Sumner got hit with a personal foul and Camas was awarded with a first down. Matthews cashed in the opportunity with his third touchdown of the game.
“I think it’s great for us to have a game like this, to show we can go four quarters and mix it up with the best teams in the state,” Matthews said. “It’s all positive on the sidelines. Nobody’s talking down to each other. Just encouragement. ‘You can do this, next play, what’s important now.’ We stayed with that and pulled through like brothers always do.”
An incredible scramble by Elias Bashir led to one more Camas touchdown. Rushall then picked off the last pass and the Papermakers went into victory formation.
A big win for the Camas football family. A giant leap for the community. One more week of football practice. One more game on the biggest stage of their lives.
“What I’m going to remember the most, from this game especially, is all the fans,” Howington said. “To be able to fill McKenzie Stadium shows a lot about how much the town loves Camas football.”