The undefeated Camas High School (CHS) football team has fought its way into the 4A state tournament quarterfinals and earned another home game, this time against Puyallup High School (PHS) on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Getting there has not always been as easy as it seemed during the Papermakers’ 41-0 first-round 4A state tournament victory over Eastmont High School at Doc Harris Stadium on Nov. 16, but their goal of winning another state championship is now three wins away from reality.
This week the Papermakers (11-0) have their steely-eyed focus on the Vikings (10-1), who beat Eastlake High School 40-34 on Nov. 15 in a state tournament first-round game.
PHS, which beat CHS’ 4A Greater St. Helens League rival Union High School 42-41 in October, finished second in the 4A South Puget Sound League.
“They have a really high-powered offense with a running quarterback,” said Papermakers quarterback Blake Ascuitto. “Their defense, I’m not so sure because Eastlake managed to score a lot of points.”
CHS coach Jon Eagle is expecting a great game from both teams.
“Puyallup is a very good football team,” he said. “They have good size and play physical. They have some talented athletes on both sides of the ball. They are well coached and have a big following that travels well.”
Papermakers’ quarterback delivers strong performance
Senior Tyler Forner and junior Jacques Badolato-Birdsell returned from injuries for the Nov. 16 contest. Badolato-Birdsell proved his ankle is no longer a problem, running for 99 yards and three touchdowns while with catching two passes for another 52 yards.
“I feel like I’m starting to get there. My ankle is feeling better,” he said. “We just have to remember how we got here in the first place and put in the work day in and day out like we have been.”
Senior wide receiver Jackson Clemmer pulled down two touchdown catches, including a 47-yarder in the first quarter to start the Papermakers’ scoring frenzy.
“It was really a broken play,” Clemmer said. “I was supposed to go vertical, but could see Blake was scrambling, so I cut underneath and he found me. Then it was just a run from there.”
The chemistry between Ascuitto, who has taken over at quarterback for the injured Jake Blair, and his receivers has been strong, which is no surprise considering many of the CHS seniors have played football together since they were in the fifth grade.
“Before we even played Pop Warner football, Blake and I played flag football with each other, so we’ve had a chemistry together forever,” Clemmer said.
“We’ve been dreaming of winning a state championship since Pop Warner,” said Ascuitto, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 232 yards.
The Papermakers’ defense has dominated throughout the season, helping CHS outscore opponents by an average of 32 points per game.
Players say they have learned that success during games is a result of what happens during practice sessions. That’s where senior Charlie Bump learned a technique that led to his fourth-quarter interception which preserved the shutout against EHS.
“He (the quarterback) rolled out and we were in ‘scramble mode,’ which is something we practice every day,” Bump said. “We all had our man, and he just happened to throw it where we wanted it.”
CHS lineman receives inspiration from older brother
Perhaps no one in the home crowd was rooting harder for CHS than J.T. Tumanuvao, who was a lineman on the Papermakers’ 2016 state championship squad.
He flew into town from Utah, where he’s an education student at Brigham Young University, to watch his younger brother Tai battle in the trenches on the CHS line, just like he did.
“I admire the magic you can find here in Camas,” J.T. said. “It’s a community surrounding young men trying to succeed, which feels so enriching.”
The Tumanuvao brothers talk strategy before every game.
“I take a lot of notes from him and go over game plans, and then during the national anthem I close my eyes just like he did,” Tai said after CHS’ win over the Wildcats. “I wear the same number that he did. He’s an inspiration to me. Plus I want to get my championship too.”
The Papermakers know that as they advance in tournament play, their competition will become more challenging. But after their disappointing 2018 season, they remain focused on winning another championship.
“The boys can make their own destiny,” J.T. said. “They just need to keep their noses down, keep their edge and fight for it.”