TACOMA — Camas linebacker John Norcross had an unusual response to his team falling to Skyline of Sammamish in the Class 4A state football semifinals Saturday.
“I’m not super happy about the loss, but it was a very fun game,” Norcross said. “It was a great offense to go against.”
Norcross elaborated that as a competitor, one wants to go up against the best, to test oneself.
So while quarterback Max Browne and the Spartans rolled off 51 points and more than 500 yards of offense, Norcross could take comfort in knowing he and the rest of the Camas defense left it all on the field against one of the best players in the nation.
Browne completed 29 of 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns in the 51-28 victory.
“I heard I was 29 of 32, but I didn’t really notice it,” Browne said. “It was just one of those things where I was taking what the defense gave me and getting the ball in my playmakers’ hands.”
That happened a lot.
“He does a nice job of finding the open receiver. He understands where the defense is vulnerable,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said. “Their receivers run precise routes, and they have pretty nice hands. That combination of everything is pretty impressive.”
By halftime, Browne, who has committed to the University of Southern California, was 20 of 22 for 297 yards. He had two touchdown passes at that point as the Spartans erased a 14-0 deficit to lead 24-14 at the half.
There was too much time left for the Spartans to be concerned when they were down 14-0.
“I’ve played a few games in here, and I know the atmosphere can get a little crazy,” Browne said. “But no panic. I have the utmost confidence in my guys.”
Camas quarterback Reilly Hennessey said he hopes to learn from the way Browne conducts himself.
“That guy is real,” Hennessey said. “That guy is something else. That was just impressive.”
Browne’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Nic Sblendorio in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. Later, he threw a perfect pass against a well-defended receiver for a 38-yard gain. That play started with 43 seconds left in the half and Skyline at its 1-yard line. No matter, Browne and the Spartans got in field-goal range and scored with a second to spare.
“They played great,” Norcross said. “They didn’t make mistakes. They just played clean football. They weren’t sloppy. It was great to go up against an offense like that.”
Even those who had some success against the Spartans were impressed. Camas defensive lineman Jason Vailea had two sacks.
“He’s a really smart player. He understands the game so well. When he’s in a bit of trouble, he knows exactly what to do,” Vailea said. “I was surprised when I got two sacks. I didn’t think I’d lay a hand on him. Just an outstanding player.”
The Papermakers would have had more fun winning, but they did get to witness, first-hand, a great performance.
In defeat, Norcross and his teammates already appreciate that.