TACOMA — A season of hype. A season of praise. A season of wow moments.
But only now can these Camas Papermakers say they have made school history.
Reilly Hennessey threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Papermakers to a 49-21 victory over Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma in a Class 4A state football semifinal game Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome.
After consecutive losses in the semifinals, it is this Camas team that will be the first in program history to play for a state championship. The Papermakers (13-0) will face Chiawana of Pasco in the title game next week back in the dome.
“Since November 24, 2012, this day has been on my mind,” Hennessey said, noting the loss last year in the semifinals against Skyline. “The chance to do it over again and what I’d do over again. This opportunity, I’m so thankful. And I’m so glad I’m with all these people I get to share it with.”
He shared the football with five receivers, mostly going to Zach Eagle, who caught 11 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns.
“Just a great feeling, knowing we’re moving on, playing one more game,” Eagle said. “We came up short two years in a row. It’s a blast knowing we worked so hard in this offseason to be successful.”
Eagle caught two TD passes from Hennessey in the game’s first five minutes, and the rout was on for the Papermakers.
Sure, the Lions responded with a touchdown to make it 14-7, but this is 2013, not 2012. The Papermakers would end up scoring on their first five possessions of the game, taking a 35-14 lead into half.
Nate Beasley finished with 128 yards rushing and a score for the Papermakers. He walked off the field, appreciative of all that this team has done this season, but still thinking about next week, too.
“That in itself is a great accomplishment for us,” Beasley said of reaching the finals. “We just couldn’t break the barrier. We hit a wall. We finally found a way to break through. Now there’s another week we have to break through. I believe, in all honesty, we can do it.”
Michael DiGenova, the defensive player of the year in the 4A Greater St. Helens League, proved he can dominate on offense, too. The tight end caught six passes for a career-high 134 yards, setting up touchdown after touchdown in the first half.
“It was different. It’s always a great feeling when the ball ends up in your hands,” DiGenova said. “You obviously try to do the most with it when that happens.”
Defensive lineman Jason Vailea made two appearances in the Camas offensive backfield and scored two touchdown runs. Cole Zarcone capped the scoring for the Papermakers with a 9-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Papermakers a 49-14 lead. The Lions would add a late touchdown, but by then, the game had been decided.
“It’s just a thrill. I can’t lie,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said.
The Papermakers called 49 plays and gained 406 yards in the first half.
“We were confident in our game plan and in our preparation. We just got out there and got things done,” offensive lineman Drew Clarkson said.
Then he heard those first-half numbers.
“That feels awesome,” he said. “It just shows we were doing our jobs and all the players were doing what they know how to do.”
Camas football, the Papermakers call it.
“Offense wins games, defense wins championships,” Beasley said. “Our offense had to show up today to win this game.”
Camas finished with 581 yards, more than 300 more than Bellarmine Prep.
“There’s definitely something to say when the offense is doing what it does,” DiGenova said. “The defense feeds off that energy. Coaches are putting guys in the right position, and people are making plays.”
Camas scored 93 seconds into the game, needing five plays to go 80 yards. Eagle caught a 10-yard TD pass from Hennessey. After the Camas defense forced a 3-and-out, the Hennessey-Eagle combo teamed up again for an 11-yard scoring play for a 14-0 lead.
The Lions got right back in it with a 10-yard scoring pass from Lou MIllie to Garrett McKay but Camas went 74 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 5-yard TD run from Vailea for another two-TD lead.
Another Bellarmine Prep 3-and-out led to another Camas touchdown. Beasley ran it in from two yards out.
A long kickoff return gave the Lions a short field to make it 28-14 on a 2-yard run from Ahmad Lewis.
That just gave Camas another opportunity to drive. The Papermakers went 80 yards on 12 plays, and Eagle went the last 41 off a swing pass from Hennessey.
Camas would get the only third-quarter touchdown, a Vailea 3-yard run, to pretty much ice the game. Zarcone found the end zone to give the Papermakers 49 points.
“We did it,” Clarkson said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
The scoreboard said it all: The Camas Papermakers are going to the state championship game.
CAMAS 49, BELLARMINE PREP 21
Bell Prep 7 7 0 7–21
Camas 21 14 7 7–49
Cam — Zach Eagle 10 pass from Reilly Hennessey (Michael Boyle kick)
Cam — Eagle 11 pass from Hennessey (Boyle kick)
BP — Garrett McKay 10 pass from Lou Millie (Matt Philichi kick)
Cam — Jason Vailea 5 run (Michael Boyle kick)
Cam — Nate Beasley 2 run (Boyle kick)
BP — Ahmad Lewis 2 run (Philichi kick)
Cam — Eagle 41 pass from Hennessey (Boyle kick)
Cam — Vailea 3 run (Boyle kick)
Cam — Cole Zarcone 9 run (Boyle kick)
BP — McKay 35 pass from Millie (Philichi kick)
RUSHING — Bellarmine Prep: Nathan Goltermann-Doyle 12-38, Millie 16-44, Lewis 2-4. Camas: Beasley 27-128, Zarcone 8-68, Hennessey 9-35, Vailea 2-8.
PASSING — Bellarmine Prep: Millie 13-25-1-183. Camas: Hennessey 21-32-1-343.
RECEIVING — Bellarmine Prep: McKay 5-89, Goltermann-Doyle 4-61, Drew Griffin 3-30, Lewis 1-3. Camas: E.agle 11-170, DiGenova 6-134, Slav Mikhalets 2-14, James Price 1-13, Jorden Payne 1-12.