Day After Report: Great people play this game
Anyone who has followed this report through the years, or anyone who knows me, knows that one of the biggest passions of my life is watching football.
I am fortunate to work in a field that allows me to cover high school football. On Saturdays when I’m not working or hanging out with family and friends, I’m watching college football. And every Sunday starting in September, 21 of the next 22 weeks are dedicated to watching the NFL. (Sorry, I just can’t get into the Pro Bowl.)
In case I haven’t said it enough, I really, really love football.
Right now, especially at the NFL level, football is taking a beating. For a while, you couldn’t go a day without professional football being under attack. (And for the most part, the NFL deserved a lot of the criticism it was taking.)
Still, a few knuckleheads should not taint the entire league. For every one player who gets in trouble with the law, there are hundreds NFL players who are good people, working hard to play a game, to make a living, to provide for their families. In the offseason, before cuts are made, there are 90 players on each squad. That’s 2,880 professional athletes trying to make an NFL roster every year. I can guarantee you most of those people are good people. Not perfect. Good. Genuine.
Which leads me to the high school game. I’ve been covering high school football, all high school sports in fact, in one form or another, for 21 seasons. For every knucklehead I’ve come across in high school sports, I know I can tell you a thousand stories of good, great, fantastic people who I have met.
They are the ones who keep me motivated in this line of work.
And today, I wanted to give a little attention to a few of them who are playing football this fall in Southwest Washington. (For this report, I’m talking about two players and one team. I apologize for not getting to everyone. Just consider these three examples as a representation of most of Southwest Washington.)
So a few hours after his team lost to Camas on Friday night, I received a text from a Skyview player:
“God is good.”
Skyview quarterback Zac Shomler’s faith is everything to him. It is important to him that he shares that faith win or lose.
He is also the type of guy who will tweet to an opponent a word of encouragement. Back in Week 3, Skyview beat Battle Ground. After the game, he tweeted out a picture of him and Battle Ground sophomore quarterback Gunner Talkington.
“Great to play this stud,” Shomler said. “Great kid with a bright future.”
The next week, Talkington threw for 501 yards. So, yeah, Shomler was right. Better keep an eye on him.
Another quarterback has been doing his own little part to make the world a better place since long before high school. Nolan Henry of Union is known as much for his volunteerism and work for charities as he is the three-year starting quarterback for the Titans.
Henry has helped Union to a 5-0 start and a No. 3 AP ranking in the Class 4A state poll.
Off the field, he has been organizing a food drive for years and has gone overseas to help those in need.
Recently, he learned he earned a $10,000 scholarship. Nordstrom Cares gives $10,000 to 90 students throughout North America every year, and Henry is one of them. “The Nordstrom Scholarship recognizes outstanding students … for their exceptional scholastic achievement and community involvement,” the scholarship’s website reads.
Then there is the Camas football team. There is something special going on with these guys, especially with an opponent that until last December, they had never before faced.
We all know Chiawana beat Camas with a sports miracle of a finish in the championship game last December. Then the two teams faced each other in Week 1 this season, with Camas taking a close one.
Well, after those two games, the players on both teams formed a mutual admiration society. Players from each side have been tweeting to the other, saying how great they were, how they hope to play each other again in the playoffs. No trash talk. Just genuine appreciation for the battles they have had with one another.
That relationship was cool enough, and then, after Chiawana suffered a tragedy with one of its players, Camas was one of the teams to send a get-well card and and other messages of goodwill.
This is high school sports, what it’s supposed to be about.
Players should want to beat their opponents on the field, but lend a hand off the field. Players should encourage one another. Athletes know just what it takes to get on the field, how much work it takes to play the game. So after they have tried to overpower one another on the field, it is only fitting that players show mutual respect to one another after the game.
Zac Shomler. Nolan Henry. The Camas Papermakers. They do this. I see it every week. I see so many others, too. And not just in football.
I have a great job because I get to see this every week.
Thank you to the athletes who get it, who understand that while winning is very important, it is not the only thing. Not at this level.
Before continuing with the Day After Report, a few “programming” notes. Sorry for the delay in this report. I started feeling sick Friday afternoon, covered the Camas-Skyview game, then went home and tried to slip into a coma for a couple of days. … Also, the Day After Report might not happen the next two weeks, or it might be smaller than usual. I’ve got some days off planned. Don’t worry. I won’t miss a Friday night. Well, unless there is some sort of emergency.
CAMAS 56, SKYVIEW 24
Papermakers scored five consecutive touchdowns after it was 21-17.
Not even close: I noted on Twitter and then in my game story that Camas is not used to close games. This turned into another blowout, but it was close for a half.
“Not many games like this,” Camas quarterback Liam Fitzgerald said. “It got us revved up.”
At halftime, the Papermakers regrouped.
“Then we came out hot,” Fitzgerald said.
Camas has won 16 consecutive games against Clark County opponents, and the closest game was 22 points.
2-minute drill: The Papermakers are always in a hurry-up offense, so it should be no surprise that they feel like 1 minute, 3 seconds is an eternity.
Skyview had just kicked off to the Papermakers after making it a four-point game at 21-17. Camas took over at its own 28-yard line with 1:03 on the clock. It took 30 seconds for the Papermakers to get in the end zone.
There was a 38-yard pass from Fitzgerald to Jared Bentley. Then Fitzgerald scrambled for a 12-yard gain. That was followed by an 8-yard pass to James Price. The next play, Fitzgerald found running back Cole Zarcone in the flat for an easy 14-yard touchdown play. That was 72 yards in four plays just like that.
It is how Camas practices. It is how Camas plays.
Fitzgerald on fire: Fitzgerald threw four incomplete passes in a row early in the game. I remember this because that was so remarkable. It was like a Bigfoot sighting. It just doesn’t happen. Then Fitzgerald got hot.
After starting the game 3 for 7 for 45 yards, he finished 18 for 21 for 321 yards and five touchdowns.
James Price was his favorite target. He caught nine balls for 171 yards and three touchdowns. On one of the TDs, Fitzgerald bought time by moving around the pocket, and Price came back toward the ball from the back of the end zone. Price slid and caught the ball. A perfect pass that stayed away from the defense.
“A lot of people say he’s going to be the next big thing,” Price said of Fitzgerald. “I already think he’s the next big thing. He can only get better from here.”
Bryan Kelly is Dane Santos: Bryan Kelly is another one of those classy guys who understands that it is more than just winning game or scoring touchdowns. It’s about family. Kelly is wearing No. 6 now so that Dane Santos can be with him out on the field. Santos, who wore No. 6 through the first four weeks of the season, is done for the year with a knee injury. So Kelly, who used to wear No. 33, is now No. 6.
Well played Bryan.
Unanswered? No: We all have our little idiosyncrasies. One of mine it to point out when sports media members use terms incorrectly. (Of course, I’m guilty of using terms incorrectly from time to time, as well, so go ahead and let me know when I do!). Anyway, here’s one that always bugs me. When someone claims a team has scored 35 unanswered points when they mean 35 consecutive points. The other night, Camas scored 35 consecutive points. They did not score 35 unanswered points. Skyview scored the last touchdown of the game. That was the answer! So the next time you hear a team has scored xx unanswered points, beware. It is only unanswered if the points were, you know, unanswered! Now, one would be correct to say Camas scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. Because Camas scored 21 points in the period and Skyview did not score in the quarter.
UNION 55, EVERGREEN 7
BATTLE GROUND 33, HERITAGE 22
BETHEL 27, MOUNTAIN VIEW 21 (Saturday)
Nothing surprising about these results. Union is ranked third in the state. … Give credit to Heritage, though, for having a halftime lead over Battle Ground. … Mountain View had a strong effort on the road Saturday night in a non-league loss. … Big game for Week 6 in the 4A GSHL is Mountain View (1-1 GSHL) vs. Skyview (2-1). … For those wondering, the Camas-Union game is Week 7. That might get a little attention.
TUMWATER 65, COLUMBIA RIVER 6
The No. 2 team from Class 2A is pretty darn awesome. (These notes from freelance reporter Rene Ferran.)
This escalated quickly: Not a game that anyone would have predicted would need a running clock in the second half, but the Thunderbirds rolled to the non-league victory in River’s final test before opening GSHL 3A play next week.
There was a definite turning point to Friday night’s game when a roughing the kicker penalty went against River midway through the first quarter.
Before the penalty, the Chieftains held Tumwater without a first down on its first three possessions, allowing only 15 yards on nine plays.
After the penalty, Tumwater scored on three consecutive possessions and added a fourth score in a most bizarre fashion.
The mistakes by the Chieftains just piled up. One quickly morphed into two, then a third, a fourth and a fifth came in lightning fashion, until they looked up and saw they were down 28-0 to the two-time 2A state runner-up.
“We were in a fog,” said coach John O’Rourke. “It just became fatal.”
Strange play: The craziest play of the night had to be one that is so rare, the statistician’s manual really doesn’t have an situation quite like it. It certainly was unlike anything I’d seen in 24 years of covering high school and college football games.
On fourth-and-3 from its 33-yard line with 1:37 left in the first quarter, River lined up in punt formation. The ball was snapped way over punter Garrett McKee’s head, and it rolled all the way inside the 5-yard line.
McKee scooped up the ball, then rolled to his left to elude a Tumwater defender. Trying to make chicken salad out of the situation, the right-footed McKee attempted a left-footed punt but whiffed as his momentum carried him past the ball, which fell to the ground at the 2.
Devon Shedd-Kirkland couldn’t believe his good fortune. The T-Birds junior picked the ball up and dived into the end zone for the touchdown as teammates mobbed him.
It wasn’t a fumble, because McKee attempted to punt, and it wasn’t a blocked punt, because no Tumwater player touched it.
In the end, it’s ruled a team punt for minus-31 yards, and Shedd-Kirkland gets credit for perhaps the shortest punt return for a touchdown ever of 2 yards.
Shedd-Kirkland had his hand on another big play later in the first quarter, recovering a fumble by Gabe Evenson when the senior quarterback couldn’t handle a shotgun snap. Shedd-Kirkland returned the ball from the T-Birds 36 to about the River 42, where he lateraled the ball to a teammate, who took it the final 2 yards before getting driven out of bounds.
Tumwater turned that turnover into its third touchdown, and the T-birds later converted on a shanked punt, giving them a 28-0 lead over the shell-shocked Chieftains.
“We kind of collapsed there,” Evenson said. “But it also shows a lot of learning points for us. The two things that are controllable are attitude and effort. We need to learn how to handle it when we get down early and not point fingers at one another.”
Something good, a lot bad: The kicking game had a couple of positives for River — kickoff returns of 39 yards by Nathan Hawthorne and 53 yards by Vincent Daniels — but a whole lot of negatives all around.
Besides the first-half punting woes, the Chieftains also had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter as Trevor Davis knifed through the line to swallow up McKee’s attempt. Davis then raced into the end zone and slid on top of the ball to corral it for a touchdown.
Throw in a missed extra-point attempt following their only touchdown, and O’Rourke was certainly guilty of massive understatement when he concluded, “We made some kicking game errors tonight.”
Another game, another win: Tumwater coach Sid Otton, 71, is the state’s all-time wins leader, picking up No. 364 on Friday night, 331 of them coming with the Thunderbirds.
Otton’s son, Tim, is an assistant coach, and sophomore tight end Cade is the second grandson to come through the ranks, following quarterback Jayden Croft, who graduated last year after leading the team to two straight finals appearances.
Cade had a 30-yard TD catch on a seam route where he ran uncovered through the middle of the field, and later added a 39-yarder that set up Tumwater’s fourth score of the game.
“We saw that they exposed their throats,” said Cade Otton, “and we just started gaining momentum.”
After the initial futility on their first three drives, the Thunderbirds finished with 425 rushing yards and 590 yards of total offense with 21 first downs.
“Our offense is all about getting four, five yards every play and wearing the other team down,” Cade Otton said. “Our O-line did an awesome job after (the roughing penalty), and just opening things up for the running game and our passing game.”
League play begins: River finished its stretch of 2A non-league contests 4-1, and now it finally gets to open Greater St. Helens 3A play by hosting Fort Vancouver for its Homecoming game next week.
The Chieftains have to get over getting bum-rushed on their home field while also avoiding the distractions of a Homecoming game.
O’Rourke thinks it’s very doable.
“Everybody has to put this game behind them,” he said. “We need to do all the things as far as being precise, working hard at practice, so we can execute everything properly.”
Evenson added, “It all starts in the film room. How much time are you willing to spend in there? We’ve got to focus more at practice this week, flying around, paying attention. We just have to let this game be. It was out of league, just one loss. We have an opportunity to turn things around next week.”
PRAIRIE 38, MARK MORRIS 14
Congrats to the Falcons. That’s two wins in a row after a tough start to the season.
KELSO 65, FORT VANCOUVER 12
WOODLAND 48, WASHOUGAL 7
HOCKINSON 48, HUDSON’S BAY 0
Notice a trend here? Yeah, these games got ugly. Woodland and Hockinson appear to be way, way better than the rest of the 2A Greater St. Helens League. They face each other in Week 8. In 3A, Kelso picked up its second league win, and in a four-team league, that should be a lock for a playoff berth. Well, unless three teams tie at 2-1. That makes my head ache just thinking about that.
Anyway, six of the games in our readership area on Friday went to running clock. Micah Rice was at two of those running clock games at Kiggins Bowl. Here are some of his notes:
The double feature at Kiggins Bowl had the same plot.
There were two games, but they felt like one long game. Both were blowouts with running clock early in the third quarter. Both involved the winning team running it down their opponents’ throats. Kelso gained 388 of its 433 yards on the ground. Hockinson had 349 of its 405 yards on the ground. Both winning defenses ruled. Fort managed 110 yards of offense. Bay had 80. Combine the two games, and you get some eye-popping numbers. Kelso-Hockinson tag teamed to outscore Fort-Bay 113-12 and outgained them 838 to 190.
R.A. LONG 7, RIDGEFIELD 5
The Columbian would like to thank both teams for showing that defensive games are great, too.
LA CENTER 28, CASTLE ROCK 7
Nice job Wildcats in picking up this league win. Our apologies but for some reason your game story was not put online Friday night and no one noticed throughout the weekend. (Remember, I was in my coma. I noticed about midnight Sunday night.) Trying to get this fixed. Not sure what happened. But I will say we have been short-staffed a few weeks this football season and the guys in the office are doing an excellent job of getting all the stories in the next day’s paper, making deadline. Remember, all the game stories are coming in about the same time, and the guys on the desk have to read, edit, and come up with headlines for everything you see in the print edition.
That’s it for this week. Hope to have something next week and the week after, but remember, those will be smaller. Technically not working the next two weekends. (But you know I’ll come up with something. I love this stuff too much!)