CAMAS — Championships, the Camas Papermakers found out on Friday, are not handouts.
Kelso gave Camas its first test in more than a month, keeping the crowd at Doc Harris Stadium a bit nervous. But the Papermakers made enough big plays to overcome their own mistakes and some tough Hilander defense to finish a perfect 9-0 regular season with a 24-13 victory.
The resulting Class 3A Greater St. Helens League championship means Camas will host Rainier Beach from Seattle in a playoff game next weekend.
But the celebration was muted after senior quarterback Logan Grindy left the game with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter. There were also injuries to linemen Justin Lebowsky and David Anderson.
Grindy, who was 15 for 28 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown, had his left ankle wrapped in ice after the game.
“I was running the ball and I made a cut and it popped,” Grindy said. “It hurt a lot, so I don’t know (what happened).”
Grindy was hurt as Camas was trying to run time off the clock in the fourth quarter.
The play that put a hurt on Kelso’s upset hopes was a statue-of-Liberty trick play that produced a 39-yard touchdown run for Zack Marshal late in the third quarter for the final points of the night.
“It was just the perfect time,” Marshall said. “We caught the defense off guard. It was perfectly blocked, too.”
Kelso had pulled within 17-13 on a 96-yard drive that included two fourth-down conversions.
Marshall rushed for 182 yards on 28 carries, running 18 times for 109 yards in the second half.
“We won ugly,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said. “We’ll take it.”
The game started as if the Papermakers were going to punish another league foe. Brent Hill scored two touchdowns 19 seconds apart in the first quarter for a quick 14-0 Camas lead. But the score was tight through a contest that included myriad Camas miscues.
One example was 12 penalties for 117 yards against the Papermakers. There was a muffed punt that Kelso turned into a touchdown, a Hilander interception in the end zone to take away potential Papermaker points, and a fumbled snap on a fourth-and-1 play from the Kelso 4 that ended a scoring threat.
“They’re a good team, and they did some good things, but we had a few chances where we just didn’t execute, so that kind of hurt us,” Grindy said.
Camas began the game with an impressive 85-yard 10-play drive that included two third-down conversions. The points came on a beautiful catch in the right corner of the end zone by Hill for a 15-yard touchdown.
On Kelso’s first offensive play, quarterback Makaio Mobbs threw a backwards swing pass for Cedrique Chaney that Hill eventually scooped up and ran 13 yards for a second touchdown.
“I hit (Chaney), got up and the ball bounced into my arms,” Hill said. “I didn’t know what to do at first, but then I took off.”
It looked as if Camas was off and running to another rout. But Kelso’s defense played tough. The Hilander blitzes pressured Grindy enough to keep Camas from running away.
Kelso pulled within 14-7 early in the second quarter, with Jared O’Neil scoring from two yards out to cap a 33-yard drive set up when the Highlanders recovered a punt that bounced off of a Camas player.
Camas outgained Kelso 219-99 in the first half, and finished the game with a 364-247 advantage in net yards. Before halftime, the Papermakers had one drive end on downs at the Kelso 31-yard line. Another ended when Kelso’s Taylor Radcliffe intercepted Grindy in the end zone on a third down play from the Hilander 15.
The last Camas possession of the half pushed the margin to 17-7 on a 33-yard field goal by Roldan Alcobendas.
“It feels really good to finally be undefeated,” Hill said. “But it’s got to carry over to the postseason, and we’ve got some stuff to improve on.”
CAMAS 24, KELSO 13
Kelso 0 7 6 0—13
Camas 14 3 7 0—24
Cam — Brent Hill 15 pass from Logan Grindy (Roldan Alcobendas kick)
Cam — Brent Hill 13 fumble return (Roldan Alcobendas kick)
Kel — Jared O’Neil 2 run (Sam Schmidt kick)
Cam — Alcobendas 33 FG
Kel — Taylor Radcliffe 15 run (kick blocked)
Cam — Zack Marshall 39 run (Alcobendas kick)
Rushing — Kelso: Riley Miller 13-83, Jaren O’Neil 17-67, Makaio Mobbs 6-17. Camas: Zack Marshall 28-182, Grindy 6-13, Tony Gennaro 2-8.
Passing — Kelso: Mobbs 4-11-2-36, Taylor Radcliff 1-1-0-023. Camas: Logan Grindy 15-28-1-174.
Receiving — Kelso: Sam Young 2-27, Cedrique Chaney 2-36, Miller 1-(minus 4). Camas: Marshall 6-53, Jeremy Faulkner 5-51, Miguel Salamanca 2-43, Kyle Ervin 2-27.