Camas quarterback Reilly Hennessey looked up at the scoreboard, saw the big lights, and it was all so real. The Papermakers were up by 13 points, late in the fourth quarter.
"I actually thought to myself, 'The only way we're going to lose this game is if they come up with a miracle finish that they will talk about for the next 30 years. It could only be something everyone will remember.'"
Hennessey relayed that story nine days after Chiawana scored two touchdowns in the final 55 seconds to beat Camas 27-26.
It was a sports miracle, alright. The only thing Hennessey got wrong is the 30 years thing. Everyone associated with that finish will remember it a lot longer than 30 years.
The Camas Quest for a perfect season fell a game short.
Put it all together, the second-place finish for Camas, capped with that wild, unforgettable finish to the season, makes the Papermakers football season The Columbian's top sports story of 2013.
The Papermakers were not the only ones making memories.
We had a video from one of Clark County's games that went viral, we had a runner from Clark County who went international, and we had fish making memorable comeback of their own.
What a year.
1) A stunning finish
Win or lose, the Camas Papermakers knew they were going to remember the state championship game for the rest of their lives.
But the way they lost?
That just makes them wish they could forget.
Chiawana of Pasco won the Class 4A state championship late Saturday night, shocking everyone in the Tacoma Dome with two touchdowns in the final minute of the game to defeat the previously unbeaten Papermakers 27-26.
— Paul Valencia, Dec. 8
The shocking end cannot take away these facts: The 2013 Camas Papermakers won a school-record 13 games and became the first team in program history to reach the state championship game.
2) An ESPN finish
Trailing by one, Columbia River attempted a field goal with seven seconds remaining.
Skyview's rush swarmed the backfield and blocked the kick. The Storm started celebrating as their fans rushed the field.
The football lay on the field for about five seconds. Then, the River coaches started screaming.
"It's live! Pick it up!"
River senior Reese Keller did just that.
With Skyview players running toward their fans, a River convoy ran toward the end zone.
The referee signaled touchdown. Bedlam ensued as River's fans rushed the field while joy turned to bewilderment for Skyview.
— Micah Rice, Sept. 14
It took a couple of days, but the video of that final play went viral. Internet sports/media sites. ESPN. Fox Sports One. It made an appearance on Monday Night Football. It made an appearance on the Not Top 10. (Actually, it made several appearances there.) It was everywhere.
The Chieftains celebrated. Skyview became famous.
It was not ideal for the Storm, but they handled it with class. No pointing fingers, either. The Skyview coaches said they were celebrating, too. It was just a strange play because all 22 players on the field forgot the ball was live for those few seconds. Then, just like that, it became a national story.
3) Efraimson takes on the world
Alexa Efraimson felt humbled, and still hinted at bigger things to come.
Efraimson, a junior-to-be at Camas High School, won a bronze medal in the girls 1,500 meters at the World Youth Track and Field Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.
"It feels amazing to be on the podium. Even being here is humbling, so to get on the podium is even better," she said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to do things like this in the future for the professional team."
— Greg Jayne, July 14
One day, maybe the Olympics. But in 2013, it was another state championship performance in high school at the track championships and then as a junior in the fall in cross country. She also won big events such as the Nike Cross Regional, the Nike Borderclash, and the Nike Cross Nationals.
4) Where did these Blazers come from?
Wesley Matthews loves to say that basketball is a beautiful game when it's played the right way.
Throughout their 10-game winning streak, the Portland Trail Blazers have managed to win games in nearly every way a team can.
The key has been unselfishness and understanding of roles.
— Erik Gundersen, Nov. 25
The Portland Trail Blazers lost their last 12 games of the 2012-13 season. Oh, there were some cool moments in that season, capped by the Damian Lillard being named the rookie of the year. Still, the team lost 13 in a row.
Fast forward several months and into the next season and the Blazers have one of the best records in the NBA. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like an MVP. Lillard is clutch. And the Blazers are not just good, but fun to watch, as well.
5) You're gonna need a bigger boat
A good forecast of 678,000 fall chinook salmon was predicted to enter the Columbia River in 2013. By the time the tallying is all done, the number will end up being a phenomenal 1.2 million.
That 2013's run was special became obvious by about the second week in August when the fishing was exceptional at Buoy 10, the lower 16 miles of the Columbia River. A great catch of 25,900 chinook were kept and 16,600 released.
The super angling surged up the Columbia. Fishermen between Tongue Point at Astoria and Bonneville Dam next got a chance at the salmon bonanza catching another 31,900 and releasing 9,700.
Upstream of Bonneville Dam, not the best of salmon waters, the catch was a good 13,900 chinook.
Fall salmon fishing in 2013 in the Columbia was not a slam-dunk to catch a chinook, but it was best most can remember.
And the good news for 2014: It appears another excellent return is coming.
— Allen Thomas, Columbian Outdoors writer
6) Super Bowl or bust
There was no suspense.
No drama to match the playoff-level hype.
No defining play that will rival the 1.2 million YouTube views of Marshawn Lynch's "Beast Quake."
But the Seattle Seahawks' dominance of the New Orleans Saints on Monday did provide one thing.
With Monday's win, Seattle raised an already high bar. Now, anything short of the Super Bowl would be a flop bigger than Fosbury.
— Micah Rice, Dec. 3
The Seahawks got kicked in the gut in January, rallying from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to take a lead, only to lose on a field goal in the NFC playoffs.
The loss did not ruin the Seahawks; it fueled them.
Through 15 games this season, the Seahawks share the best record in football. If they win Sunday, they will be home throughout the playoffs. And then, they hope, they will travel to the Super Bowl.
7) Storming State
This is baseball euphoria for the Skyview Storm.
The Storm survived a crazy championship game to cap their wild championship run, winning the first state title in program history.
Relief pitcher Brooks Hanson threw four scoreless innings, and the Storm took advantage of nine South Kitsap errors to beat the Wolves 8-5.
"I don't know, man. I'm going to cry. It's awesome. We're No. 1. We are No. 1," said Brian Valentine, who had two hits and drove in two runs. "We brought it home. We brought the trophy home."
— Paul Valencia, May 26
Not only did Skyview win it all, the Storm had to get past another 4A Greater St. Helens League team to reach the final four. Skyview and Heritage faced each other in the elite eight. Skyview beat Heritage 6-4 that evening, only after the two teams beat the top-two ranked teams in the state in the quarterfinals.
8) The Portland (and Vancouver) soccer scene
Portland Thorns FC players feel they owe their fans for showing up in throngs for the inaugural National Women's Soccer League season.
A championship would be the best kind of thank-you.
— Paul Danzer, Aug. 31
The fans showed their love for the Timbers once again. No surprise there. They also showed their love for the Thorns, the new women's professional team. So pretty much, if you were a fan of soccer, Portland (and Vancouver, its classier neighbor to the north) was the place to be in America in 2013.
The Timbers led the Western Conference in points, losing only five times in the regular season. They would end up falling in the Western Conference Championship.
The Thorns would end up winning the National Women's Soccer League crown. Vancouver native Tina Ellertson played for the championship team.
9) State golf tournaments come to Southwest Washington
Terry Cavender was tired of athletes starting a journey from Clark County. He wanted this region to become a destination, the destination.
"When you're in Southwest Washington, you travel to a state tournament somewhere. Nothing's happening in Vancouver," said the former athletic director at Camas High School. "We wanted to bring something to our corner of the state."
Cavender had the idea, and the Vancouver USA Regional Sports Commission had the power make it happen.
After months of working with local courses, local hotels, and a number of local golf enthusiasts, Southwest Washington is hosting four state golf tournaments this week.
— Paul Valencia, May 20
The Class 4A and 3A boys and girls tournaments were held in Camas, Vancouver, Ridgefield, and Woodland. And two locals would end up with titles. Chloe Bartek of Columbia River won the Class 3A girls championship and Brian Humphreys of Camas took the 4A boys title.
10) Washington rider wins at Washougal
The most popular motocross athlete in Washington and one of the best riders in the world can now say he has a victory in his home state.
Ryan Villopoto, winner of the 2011 motocross season championship and owner of 27 overall motocross titles coming into this weekend, had never won in Washougal, an annual stop in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
He has that victory now.
The crowd, estimated at more than 20,000, let out a loud cheer when Villopoto took the lead for good in the second moto, and they kept screaming for the final 20 minutes of the race, bringing Villopoto to the finish line.
— Paul Valencia, July 21
Villopoto would go on to win the series championship, winning eight overalls in the 12-round series.