Day After (or 2 or 3) Report: Camas Championmakers

Jon Eagle, Jack Colletto

Apparently the high school football season ended Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome.
I’m not ready for it to be finished, though.
So here is one more report. A Day After the Day After the Day After Camas won the Class 4A State Championship Football Game Report!
Why? Because Camas won the state championship! Because this doesn’t happen very often in Clark County. Because, because, because I want to keep writing about football!
Hope you don’t mind.

Camas completes 14-0 season, becoming second big-school from Clark County to win a state football title. Quarterback Jack Colletto (No. 9 in the above photo) credited coach Jon Eagle for the perfect season. Colletto said Eagle let his players do their thing but also demanded attention to detail. When the players needed it, Eagle got after them. Eagle used a perfect balance of praise and criticism to get the best out of this team.

Start with The Stop:
Camas had taken a 17-14 lead over Richland midway through the third quarter, but the Bombers responded with a long drive to get into the red zone.
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Bombers faced a fourth-and-1 from the Camas 14-yard line. Rather than trying for a tying field goal, the Bombers went for the first down.
Richland ran sideways, to the short side of the field, and the ball carrier was shoved out of bounds by Camas defensive back Sedric Ruiter. It would depend on the spot.
Actually, it turned out it was not even close. Ruiter and the Camas defense stuffed that play like they knew it was coming.
Like they knew it was coming.
You know what? They did.
After the game, I was talking to a couple of coaches about that play. As a football fan and observer, I wondered aloud why a team would try a play like that. Sure, I understand going for it on fourth down there. The Bombers were trying to win the game, not just get a tie. And in high school football, a 32-yard field goal is not an automatic. However, I can’t stand when teams run outside to the short side of the field against a great, fast defense. If one is going to run outside the tackles, at least go to the open side of the field, so the running back has a chance to win a race to the sideline.
Then again, I’d only seen Richland play once this season. The Camas coaches had plenty of video on the Bombers. I was told this was Richland’s bread-and-butter play on short-yardage situations.
I countered, “So you were happy they tried this play, right?”
“We knew it was coming,” the coach answered.
Still, these were two of the best teams in Washington going at it for a perfect season and a state title. Even if both teams know what play is coming, it still boils down to which team is going to execute. Sedric Ruiter got the tackle. The stop. And the momentum returned to the Papermakers.
Now here is what makes this play, and the aftermath, even more interesting for football fans. Both teams played like champions immediately after The Stop.
Consider this: One of the reasons Richland went for the first down right there is because the Bombers figured their defense was playing good enough that even if they didn’t get the first down, they’d still have a chance to win the game later.
Sure enough, the Bombers did stop Camas’ next drive. The Papermakers did punt the ball back to Richland, still just up by three points. The Bombers did get the ball back again with a chance to take the lead.
But another part of the aftermath of The Stop is the Camas offense also did its job. The Papermakers might not have scored, but they did pick up four first downs. They got as far as the Richland 38-yard line before a penalty brought them back to midfield.
Camas would punt, but the field position had flipped. Richland started its next drive at the 20-yard line.
This series of events is what helps make football such a great game. And what made this such a compelling championship game. These two undefeated teams put on an incredible display.

Few more defensive gems:
Richland went four plays on its first drive, then three-and-out on its next two. On the fourth drive, Camas’ Isaiah Abdul intercepted a pass.
In the fourth quarter, with Richland trailing by three points, Camas’ Marshall McIvor harassed the quarterback and then Cody Jackson finished the QB with a sack, setting up third-and-long. After an incomplete pass, Richland would punt. Camas would score on the ensuing possession to take a 10-point lead.
Then there was Jack Colletto getting an interception to seal the victory.
Wait. I’m forgetting one. Yes, Sedric Ruiter’s fourth-down stop has to be one of the biggest plays in Camas history but before he could do that, Ryan Rushall had to make his mark on defense.
Richland went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 29-yard line at the beginning of that same drive. Quarterback Paxton Stevens found a hole and picked up the first down easily but also took off for 13 yards. It was only 13 yards, though, because Rushall made an open-field tackle. Without Rushall, it’s very possible Stevens would have gone 71 yards for a touchdown and a Richland lead.
Michael Matthews led Camas with 7 tackles. Sedric Ruiter had six tackles. Matthews, Cooper McNatt, and Jackson each had tackles for loss for the Papermakers.
Shout-out to Richland’s defense, too. The Bombers held Camas to its lowest point total of the year. Victor Strasser was a beast, credited with 4.5 tackles for loss, including a sack.

Richland’s what-if game:
When a team loses a close game, there are always the what-ifs that will haunt those players and their fans. Need proof? Ask a 2013 Papermaker about the what-if game.
In this contest, the Bombers have to be thinking about two what-if plays from the opening series of the game.
For the fifth time, that I saw, this playoff season, the Camas offense recovered its own fumble. Drake Owen, who had a fine game with seven catches for 75 yards, got hit hard after a reception on that opening drive. Ryan Rushall jumped on the ball before the Bombers could get to it.
(Another reason football is such a great game. If you were reading The Columbian this week, you will remember I featured Rushall as one of the trio of receivers who killed it for Camas all season long. Rushall, Owen, and McNatt had a catch in every single game this season leading to the championship game. Well, it turns out, Rushall’s streak ended Saturday. No catches. No big deal. He just helped in other ways. Solid blocking. Plus hustle. He recovered that fumble that led to a touchdown, remember? And on defense, he saved a touchdown.)
A few plays later, quarterback Jack Colletto was going to get crushed. He was going to be taken down. He was definitely going to be sacked on third-and-12 from the Richland 35-yard line. Only this is Jack Colletto we’re talking about. Even when he does get crushed, even when he seems to be on the way down, he just shakes it off and stays on his feet. On this play, he then found Cooper McNatt for an incredible touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“Great ball by Jack,” McNatt said. “He makes our team incredibly better when he rolls out, scrambles like that.”
But wait, there’s more. This is the biggest what-if of the game ..

The Greatest False Start Penalty In Camas History:
Camas quarterback Jack Colletto made one mistake Saturday night.
Officially, though, it never happened.
The Pick-Six That Wasn’t.
Camas, up 7-0 and driving, and Colletto opted for a quick pass. Richland saw it coming. Intercepted. It would have been an easy trek to the end zone to tie the game.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
A whistle had blown the play dead.
A Camas player was called for a false start.
Right then and there I said this HAS to be Camas’ year.

Very little drama:
Not only did Camas finish at 14-0, the Papermakers also only trailed in the second half for just a matter of minutes … total … all season.
There were a handful of games when opponents scored first in the first half of games, only for Camas to get the lead right back for good.
There were only three games the Papermakers trailed in the second half.
Skyview led Camas at halftime, but the Papermakers scored on the first series of the second half and never looked back.
Heritage (yes, Heritage!) led Camas at halftime. Camas intercepted a Heritage pass on the first series of the second half, then scored, and never looked back.
On Saturday, Richland trailed by three at halftime and took the lead over Camas with a third-quarter touchdown. That was the only time all season a team took the lead over Camas in the second half. (Skyline tied the game in the third quarter of the quarterfinals but did not take the lead in the second half.)
No problem. The Papermakers scored two-and-a-half minutes later.
A conservative guess here, but I bet the the Papermakers only trailed in the second half this year for a total of five football minutes. They never trailed in the fourth quarter in any game.
Total. Domination.

Special special teams:
Great drive by the Papermakers (with the help from two 15-yard penalties against Richland) got the team into scoring position late in the first half. Michael Boyle, who had his own bad memories from the Tacoma Dome from his freshman season, jogged onto the field with five seconds left on the clock.
It would be a 34-yard field goal attempt.
The holder, Kyle Allen, did not catch the snap cleanly. But practices makes perfect. He did not panic. He simply recovered the ball off the turf, put the ball in position, and Boyle was true on the kick. That took trust from Boyle. And it took poise by Allen. Even if the play does not start out the way it was planned does not mean it cannot finish with points on the board.
Camas took a 10-7 lead into halftime, thanks to a special play by the special team guys.

Props to the Camas players of yesterday:
Several players told me how happy they were for the Papermakers who paved the way to this championship.
Remember, the Papermakers have made the playoffs 14 consecutive years. They had reached the final four in 2011, 12, and the championship game in 2013.
“It speaks to our program, our coach, our heritage, our hard work, and our attitude at Camas,” Marshall McIvor said. “We’ve been getting knocked out of the playoffs, but you better believe we’re coming back.”

A personal note: As a journalist, as a football fan, as a member of the Clark County community, I’d like to congratulate and thank the Camas football players and coaches. An amazing journey. The players and coaches were great to work with, any time, at practice or after games, always respectful.
Well done Papermakers. Thanks for making my job easy.

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