To climb the highest peak in Washington, the Camas High School football program is going after some of the high risers in Oregon and Idaho.
Central Catholic, of Portland, comes to town for the first game of the season Friday. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., at Doc Harris Stadium. The Rams won the Oregon 6A championship in 2013 and 2014, before losing to Clackamas in the second round of the playoffs last season.
“The best lesson is to give kids the big picture, up close and personal, of high school football at the highest level,” said Camas head coach Jon Eagle. “We’ve done that first hand in the past, and it’s worked out for us.”
The Papermakers host Sherwood Sept. 9, before going on road trips to play Davis, in Yakima, Sept. 16, and Couer d’Alene, Idaho, Sept. 23. Sherwood reached the semifinals of the Oregon 6A tournament in 2015, and lost to West Linn.
“Sherwood finished higher than Central Catholic in the playoffs last year. Couer d’Alene was ranked number-one at the start of the season,” Eagle said. “There’s no rest in this schedule. If we can stay healthy and continue to get better during these four weeks, we are going to be ready for our league opponents.”
The Papermakers bring back an imposing force led by one of the deepest senior classes in the program’s history. Michael Matthews was the 2015 4A Greater St. Helens League Defensive Player of the Year at linebacker. He will be flanked by David Aarhus, Tanner Howington, Dylan Ingram, Cody Jackson and Marshall McIvor on the defensive end.
“I’ve been playing with these guys my whole life,” Matthews said. “I grew up with these guys. They’re my best friends. It goes a long ways when you’re playing next to all your brothers.”
Returning starters Dakota Napierkowski and JT Tumanuvao are solidifying the offensive line with the help of Marcus Gray and Caleb Eldred.
“It’s nice to have that kind of experience out front,” Eagle said. “Those two guys coming in have been doing a fantastic job as well.”
Eagle and the coaches keep an eye on the competition between Camas football players in practice. He said that’s what gets the kids ready for Friday nights.
Another Papermaker ready for prime time is Jack Colletto at the quarterback position. He was a defensive back last season, but now steps in under center.
“He’s been spectacular in terms of his offseason training,” Eagle said. “He’s a workout warrior. You can’t ask him to do more.”
Colletto has some athletic targets to throw to in Cooper McNatt and Drake Owen. He can also hand the ball off to a variety of running backs. Eagle said Matthews is proving to be a capable ball handler on the offense.
“How much running can he do and still be the guy who won Defense Player of the Year,” Eagle said. “You just have to find the right balance.”
Football gives these Camas players an opportunity to spend time together away from home, become brothers and create memories that will last a lifetime. Eagle believes all of these components are important to building a championship ball club. He tells the Papermakers to never get tired of the grind.
“We hope these hard working lessons carry on over to their lives,” he said. “Football is a vehicle. It’s half merry-go-round, half roller coaster. Stay on it.”