All-American punter Bryce Leighton and Eli Sivers combine to pin Bothell deep in their own territory
TACOMA — It was a 21-point lead for the Camas Papermakers.
Then it was a seven-point lead.
Oh, and Camas was about to give up the ball to the Bothell Cougars in the Class 4A state championship game.
Yes, that was a scary time for the Papermakers.
Instead, it turned into winning time for the Papermakers, who ended up winning by 21 points, 35-14.
It started with an all-American punt by an All-American punter. And a perfect end to that punt by a cover guy.
From there, it was the Camas defense doing its thing.
Back to the offense, Camas got another touchdown and all was good in Papermaker country again.
These two minutes changed the state championship game, securing a Camas championship. Camas had taken a 21-0 lead but Bothell made it 21-14. Anything could have happened.
It started with the punt, with Camas on its own 42-yard line midway through the third quarter. Boom, an absolute beauty by Bryce Leighton, who was named to the Under Armour All-American team earlier this season as one of the top two punters in the nation.
Eli Sivers raced down the ball and stopped it from going into the end zone, downing the ball at the 3-yard line.
A 55-yard punt. When it was needed.
“I’ve been nervous before other games, but this game, it was meant to be,” Leighton said. “We’ve been dreaming about this since freshman year. I was like, ‘I need to help this team.’”
Truthfully, the Papermakers haven’t needed a great punt for most of this undefeated season.
“It was a good moment,” Leighton said in the understatement of the season.
Sivers made sure it was a 55-yard net, making sure that the ball did not roll into the end zone for a touchback.
“It’s a super important role,” Sivers said. “People are always overlooking special teams, but it was one of the most important swings of the game.”
From there, the Camas defense got back in its groove after giving up back-to-back touchdowns. On a second-and-6 play, Tyler Forner deflected a pass that appeared to be heading to an open receiver who would have converted a first down.
“I got a little piece of it, and I guess that was enough, because it hit his toes,” Forner said of the incomplete pass.
Bothell threw an incomplete pass on third down, as well.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” Forner said of the defense stepping up in tough situations. “We pick each other up on defense. It’s a no-one-gets-a-first-down mentality that we all have.”
Bothell would punt, and it was shanked. Camas got the ball on the Bothell 29-yard line.
A few plays later, Blake Asciutto found Jackson Clemmer for a 28-yard touchdown pass for a 28-14 lead. Clemmer caught the ball despite defensive pass interference.
“I thought, ‘I might as well throw it up to him. He’s pretty good,’” Asciutto said of the 6-foot-6 Clemmer who broke out his senior season with 17 touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards receiving. “He’s just an insane guy. I know I can just put it up there, and he can catch it.”
Clemmer didn’t expect the ball to come his way. The first time he looked back, Asciutto was scrambling.
“All of a sudden, I look back again and the ball’s in the air. I have to catch the ball. There’s no doubt about it. I have to catch the ball.”
The flag was thrown, Clemmer and the defender fell to the ground, and the official’s hands went up. Touchdown Camas.
Bothell was done.
Camas would become the champion.
Special teams. Defense. Offense.
A perfect combination that led to a perfect season and a second state title for the Camas Papermakers.