For long-time fans of Camas High School (CHS) athletics, rejoicing in the school’s second state football championship in the past four years is a joy beyond words.
For decades, one of the program’s most fervent fans is former Camas mayor Scott Higgins. The life-long Papermaker has been running the chains at home games for the past 15 years, a task that earned Higgins a sideline pass to watch the 4A championship game from the sidelines at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma on Dec. 7.
“It’s a unique perspective,” Higgins said. “You are right here. It’s the best seat in the house and you get to stand and look up at your community and see how impressive it looks and sounds,” Higgins said during the game, which the Papermakers won 35-14 over Bothell High School.
Higgins, who graduated from CHS in 1990, played football and wrestled his way to a district title his senior season. In those days the town was dramatically smaller, and neighboring Washougal was the school’s biggest rival.
“In my three years on varsity we lost to the Panthers two of those years,” Higgins said. “They were hard fought games.”
Back then the CHS football field had a giant hump in the middle to help with drainage, but it didn’t help players who struggled to see their own teammates on the field.
“We put up with people calling us smelly Papermakers and all that stuff because we were born here,” Higgins said, “but now people desire to be here and are just so proud because we really were a doormat for a while.”
Growing through adversity
As the newly elected Camas mayor in 2013, Higgins cheered on his team to the 4A state championship game in the Tacoma Dome, where the Papermakers led Chiawana High School by 13 points with just 1 minute, 50 seconds to go in the game. That’s when the unspeakable happened.
“I was standing on the sidelines with the superintendent saying, ‘We’ve got this,’ and we even started printing the state championship T-shirts,” Higgins said. “That’s when Chiawana threw a long bomb and scored, then recovered an onside kick and scored again to win on the last play as time ran out. Just crazy.”
CHS coach Jon Eagle still thinks about that loss, although he tries to avoid those thoughts when he’s awake.
“I’ll have that flashback for the rest of my life,” he said. “You don’t think I think about that Chiawana game? I still wake up at night in a cold sweat at 4 a.m.”
Higgins bought a CHS helmet to have autographed by the 2013 team, but decided to wait for a championship to get his signatures. Three years later, the Papermakers returned to the title game, and Eagle invited the mayor to address the team in the locker room before the contest.
“I said, ‘You don’t understand how special this is to Papermakers who have been here their whole life and were faithful to this community and this team when everyone made fun of it,'” Higgins said. “I told them about our community’s great pride in what they were doing.”
The team, led by quarterback Jack Colletto, marched onto the field and won the championship. The 2019 championship team’s seniors took it all in as freshmen.
Higgins said this year’s championship team reminds him of the 2016 Papermakers squad in the way they overcame the adversity after going through last year’s disappointing 5-5 season.
“If you are going to play at this level, you have to give it everything you’ve got, and even then you have to have some breaks along the way,” Higgins said.
The Higgins family tradition of Papermakers fandom includes the former mayor’s daughters. His oldest, Rachel, now a junior at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, was a senior when the Papermakers won in 2016. Now his youngest daughter Chloe, a senior at CHS, can also boast about her own senior class championship.
The Higgins family celebrated the victory with friends at the same Tacoma hotel they stayed at in 2016.
“It was such a special family moment for us that we will never forget,” Higgins said.