Papermakers beat Union 17-7 to claim league title; La Center clinches Trico League
The Camas Papermakers have won 11 league championships in full regular seasons since 2005.
None of the previous 10 league champions can say they accomplished what the 2021 Papermakers just did.
None of those other teams had to deal with a new coach and a schedule from hell to open a season.
None of those other teams had to endure four losses in a row.
None of those other teams had to go through four excruciating learning experiences.
This one did.
Camas was 0-4. No, seriously. Camas football was 0-4.
Today this team, just like those previous Camas champions, stands alone at the top at the end of the regular season.
Camas got defensive — again — and put on a special teams clinic, as well, leading to a 17-7 victory over Union at McKenzie Stadium on Friday night, completing a 3-0 record in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
The Papermakers, after starting 0-4, have won five in a row and likely will get a home game in the Week 10 state preliminary round playoffs. (Playoff matchups and sites will be determined this weekend.)
Friday’s result also ended Union’s season. The Titans finished 1-2 in league play, in third place. The Titans were hoping for a win Friday to create a three-way tie for first place and a tiebreaker on Monday to determine the league’s two playoff teams.
Instead, Camas celebrates a league title, and Skyview, at 2-1 in league, will head to the postseason as the second-place team.
“It means a lot to us, especially with the start of our season being a little bit rough,” said Sam Speer, who had an interception on Friday and also made a fourth-down tackle to force a loss of downs. “But we got through it and came together as a team, and showed it on the field.”
“It’s huge. I’m just so proud of our team, proud of our guys,” said coach Jack Hathaway. “They stuck with it all season. Adversity was there. We met it. And it didn’t faze us. We were unfazed by it. Here we are, league champs, and that is the true reason why.”
Camas got three field goals (and two incredible punts) from Ethan Ouchi. The Papermakers also scored on defense when linebacker Jairus Phillips sacked the Union quarterback in the end zone for a safety. And the Papermakers scored on a 16-yard pass from Taylor Ioane to Sam Stark. The Camas linemen and rushing attack got the job done most of the night, as well. Jon Schultz rushed for 165 yards.
Special special teams
The Papermakers were down 7-3 midway through the second quarter when a drive to the Union 38-yard line stalled.
The team elected to punt.
That punt led to three Camas points.
Ethan Ouchi’s punt was perfect, a 37-yarder that was downed at the 1-yard line by Mark Thorkelson. On the very next play, Thorkelson recovered a Union fumble.
The Camas offense was turned away again by an inspired Union defense, but Ouchi was true on a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-6. (More on that field goal a little deeper into this story.)
In the third quarter, Camas had a 12-7 lead and punted from its 34-yard line.
This punt led directly to two Camas points.
Ouchi boomed one, and, combined with the roll, the ball traveled 65 yards to the 1-yard line. Again, it was Thorkelson who downed the punt.
“It’s the best feeling to pin them on the 1, to give your defense a chance to get a safety,” Ouchi said. “It helps flip the game, flip the field.
“Special teams is a big part of the game. We practice it every day. It’s a game changer.”
Thorkelson added that special teams has been a point of emphasis.
“At the beginning of the season, we allowed three, four, five special teams touchdowns and all that,” Thorkelson said. “So we practiced, and evidently, it got better.”
“We take great pride in special teams around here,” Hathaway said. “You really saw it tonight.”
Defense … again
The Skyview Storm averaged 34 points per game prior to facing Camas last week. The Papermakers won 17-7.
The Union Titans averaged 37.5 points per game prior to facing Camas this week. The Papermakers won 17-7.
“We’ve been working hard in practice, and we’ve got some great leaders,” Speer said. “Our seniors are great leaders, and our scout team goes hard.”
It is not just the 11 guys on the field for a particular play. It is everyone who helped prepare those guys.
“It’s crazy,” Thorkelson said of the back-to-back 7-point defensive efforts. “If you’ve seen a lot of our games, we’ve played teams that are amazing, but we’ve held them to scores that aren’t too bad. The seven points for Union … that’s something we are proud of.”
Phillips had one of the biggest plays of the night with his sack in the end zone.
“That might have been my first safety, and in a league championship? That’s huge,” Phillips said. “That’s going to be a play I probably remember for the rest of my life.”
Going forward, the Camas defense will not be a surprise to anyone in the playoffs. Still, Phillips said teams better be prepared to study hard.
“Teams are going to have to do their research. They’re going to have to try to figure out our defense,” Phillips said. “Our defense, we’re a family. We do everything together. It’s pretty surreal, and I feel our defense is only going to get better further down in the playoffs.”
Hathaway, too, noted that Skyview and Union have so much talent on offense. It’s a salute to his team’s defense and defensive coaches.
“Our defense has been the strength of the team this whole season,” Hathaway said. “They are playing lights out. It’s fun to watch them.”
Bizarre block that did not count
The Union Titans had a 7-3 lead, had just fumbled in their own territory, but the Union defense did its job and held Camas out of the end zone.
Camas lined up for a field goal.
Only, officially, the block did not happen.
Must admit none of us in the press box (there were five of us) knew what happened. There was no flag down. But after a huddle and a discussion with coaches, the officials placed the ball at the original line of scrimmage and Camas got another chance.
This time the kick was good, making it 7-6.
I found out after halftime what happened, and it’s an official’s nightmare.
Once the kick was blocked, a whistle was blown. The ball had not been recovered and was still live. An inadvertent whistle meant the play had to be redone.
Horrible break for Union.
The Papermakers got a late touchdown in the first half, off another Union turnover. And Thorkelson got it started with the interception. Then it was up to the offense to convert. Taylor Ioane found tight end Sam Stark on a quick pass, Stark turned upfield, followed a block, and waltzed into the end zone for a 12-7 lead with 15 seconds left in the half.
“It feels very special,” Ioane said. “Last year (early 2021), when we lost to Union, that put a big chip on our shoulder.”
By the way, the Camas offense might not have scored a lot but did do a solid job on maintaining drives.
Camas had scoring drives of 18 and 10 plays.
Jon Schultz rushed for 165 yards. He rushed for 164 last week in the win over Skyview..
Union takes the lead
Jaydon Jones scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give the Titans a 7-3 lead. Jones finished with 92 yards rushing on 19 carries.
That score was set up by back-to-back passes from Mitch Ratigan to Korey Bozovic, who finished with 51 yards receiving.
Ratigan, unfortunately, was injured on the sack for the safety and did not return to the game.
La Center claims Trico League title
The La Center Wildcats scored the final 31 points Friday night to beat Castle Rock 31-14, claiming the program’s 14th league championship since 2001.
“We were challenged today. Their seniors really wanted to beat us,” La Center coach John Lambert said.
The Wildcats found themselves down 14-0.
“I don’t think our kids panicked at all,” Lambert said. “We controlled our response.”
The response was 31 consecutive points.
La Center will play host to Montesano in the Week 10 district playoffs at a site to be determined.
The Wildcats were up 21-14 when a crazy play happened in their favor. Castle Rock intercepted a pass, but on the return, La Center’s Andrew Kysar stripped the ball, and David White recovered for the Wildcats and returned it for a touchdown. Two turnovers on one play, and a La Center touchdown.
“It means a lot for the kids and the program,” Lambert said of the victory. “They don’t want to be the team, in their senior year, that didn’t win a Trico League title. It’s always special to have a league title.”
Clark County playoff teams
Camas and Skyview are headed to the Class 4A state preliminary round. Mountain View, the 3A GSHL champion, is in Week 10, as well. Ridgefield won the 2A GSHL and will host a district playoff game next week. Hockinson is the No. 2 seed from the 2A GSHL. Columbia River is No. 4. Then there is La Center in 1A. Seton Catholic can clinch a 1A playoff berth with a win Saturday.