Hennessey a student of the game

Camas QB has studied, watched to prepare for big game

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

CAMAS — Camas quarterback Reilly Hennessey said he gets a little nervous before every game, the typical nerves for an athlete prior to competition.

He does not expect to be any more nervous for this afternoon's game against Skyline in the Class 4A state football semifinals.

It might be Hennessey's first start in the Tacoma Dome, but he is going to act like he has been there before — because he has.

This is Camas' second consecutive appearance in the final four. Last year, as a 3A program, the Papermakers fell to O'Dea. Hennessey was the back-up then, but the back-up with the proper frame of mind.

"In all honesty, this doesn't feel like my first playoff run. Last year helped me. I watched Tony like a hawk," Hennessey said, referring to starting quarterback Tony Gennaro. "I can't expressed how much that helped."

He also prepared as if he was going to be needed.

"I told myself I was one hit from playing in this game. That mental preparation ... helped me achieve what I have so far this year," Hennessey said.

That would be a 12-0 record with 2,495 passing yards. He has 24 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. Hennessey, a junior, is completing 61 percent of his passes.

"It's a real mature approach by him," Camas coach Jon Eagle said, referring to Hennessey's discipline last year, to get better and be ready no matter where he was on the depth chart. "A lot of kids don't look far enough ahead."

Hennessey figured if he did his job last year, it would make the job — as a starter — a bit easier this year.

He has not backed down from that preparation, either. The X's and O's of the game intrigue him. He gets to school early to go over more video. He has a spiral notebook filled with the teams he has faced, the coverages they use.

"It just makes me feel ready," Hennessey said. "It's just fun for me."

Still, even with the team's record and his statistics, Hennessey comes into this semifinal as the "Who is that guy?" quarterback.

Skyline's quarterback Max Browne has thrown for more than 3,700 yards this season, with 41 touchdowns against four interceptions. He led the Spartans to the state title last year. He plans on signing with the University of Southern California. Yeah, he's kind of a big deal.

"I'm excited to see what he does and how he composes himself," Hennessey said.

Of course, Hennessey said, he would like to "outplay" Browne in this game, but to do that, it would mean that Camas' team outplays Skyline.

"It's not like I'm competing against him," Hennessey said. "I have no hard feelings or animosity toward him. This isn't about me and him. It's a battle between both or our teams. We're going up against a tough Skyline team."

The Spartans have more yards through the air than Camas has this season, but the Papermakers have had a better run game. With points, it's almost a dead heat 12 weeks into the season. Skyline has scored 615 points and given up 186. Camas has scored 607 and given up 192.

Today, the season stats won't matter.

"The team with the best coaches, the better fundamentals, the better discipline is going to win this game," Hennessey said. "We're doing all that we can. We can't gain 30 pounds in a week. We can't grow five inches in a week. We can just do our best to get better at playing football."

Hennessey and the Papermakers have been doing that for 12 weeks now. It has led to this showdown with six-time state champion Skyline.

"Everyone is talking about how Skyline is on another level," Hennessey said. "I think we are on that level. I don't want to sound overconfident. I just have faith in the guys around me."

Spoken like a true leader.

Spoken like a quarterback.