When the Camas High School (CHS) football team takes the field at Doc Harris Stadium on Friday, Nov. 1, it will face Union High School (UHS), the defending 4A state champions.
Memories from last year’s lackluster 5-5 season, which included a regular-season-ending 14-7 loss to the Titans, have been motivating the Papermakers, who remain unbeaten after holding on to beat ninth-ranked Skyview High School (SHS) on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Kiggins Bowl in Vancouver.
“We have a lot of guys from that 5-5 season last year who experienced losses that went down at the very end of games, and because of last season we know how to bounce back,” said CHS senior running back Tyler Forner, who rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns during the third-ranked Papermakers’ nail-biting 21-17 victory.
QB Blair breaks collarbone
In the first half, CHS (8-0 overall, 3-0 4A Greater St. Helens League) cruised to a dominating 21-3 lead behind powerful running from Forner and a 28-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Jackson Clemmer from quarterback Jake Blair.
The Papermakers were bouncing with confidence as they entered the locker room at halftime, but the third quarter had them shaking their heads after the Storm took advantage of turnovers with two quick touchdown passes.
To make matters worse, Blair left the game with a broken collarbone after a hard tackle into the turf. The injury will force the junior quarterback to sit out the rest of the season.
Running back Jacques Badolato-Birdsell also left the game with an injury, but Papermakers coach Jon Eagle said he’ll be ready to play against UHS.
“It felt weird,” Forner said. “We’ve never had touchdowns against us back to back like that, and I fumbled, and that whole vibe, different players making mistakes, injuries — it felt weird.”
Blake Ascuitto took over for Blair, but the CHS offense didn’t score a single point in the second half. Late in the fourth quarter the Storm drove deep into Papermakers territory and were rushing towards a possible go-head score when the CHS defense made what was likely a game-saving play.
With a SHS runner at the 2-yard line, Papermakers senior Charlie Bump knocked the ball loose, and Jack Gibson recovered for a touchback.
“We had a good push up front,” Bump said, “but (the Storm running back) kept driving forward and I saw him reaching with the ball, and as I smacked it I saw Jack Gibson coming and he just recovered it and we took it from there.”
The CHS offense made big plays to close out the game as Forner and Randy Yaacoub gained some key first downs and SHS didn’t touch the ball again.
“I just know these guys always have my back,” Ascuitto said.
Yaacoub said the second half taught the team some valuable lessons that it will take into its game against the Titans and postseason play.
“The second half we came out a little rusty,” he said. “I don’t think we were warmed up. Maybe we were too confident. It’s hard to explain but what happened. At the end (of the game) is what team chemistry looks like. That’s what that last rep in the weight room looks like. It’s what waking up early looks like. It’s like watching film after practice. If we can keep fighting through the last stretch of games and outwork our opponents, well, that’s exactly what happened tonight, plain and simple.”
Bump said the adversity that the Papermakers experienced against the Storm will help them in crunch time.
“I think this game just prepared us,” he said. “It was a playoff-type game, and I think in the playoffs this experience will help us.”
The Papermakers know that Ascuitto will be ready to play against UHS because he led his team to victory last season after quarterback Andrew Boyle suffered an injury against SHS.
“Blake has been there before,” Eagle said. “(We have a) next-man-up mentality for rivalry week. It should be fun. The kids will be ready.”