They came into the football season as virtual unknowns, three receivers about to play for a new starting quarterback.
Today, they are household names in the only place that matters to them: The Camas community.
Cooper McNatt, Drake Owen, and Ryan Rushall still might not be stars throughout the state, but their performances have impressed Clark County. All three have caught at least one pass in every game of the season.
At Camas, that’s a lot of games. The Papermakers are heading into Week 14, playing Richland on Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome for the Class 4A state championship.
Quarterback Jack Colletto has 26 touchdown passes this season, with 21 going to the McNatt-Owen-Rushall trio.
“Every team has a go-to receiver,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said. “We have three.”
There are plenty of opportunities for everyone, too. Owen and McNatt each have caught 47 passes, while Rushall has 44 receptions.
McNatt caught 10 passes one game, but then someone else got more targets the next. Drake Owen caught three touchdown passes one game. The red-zone chances went elsewhere the next week. Rushall seems to be the king of keeping drives alive, with third-down conversions that lead to scoring plays.
“We’re just so happy when one of us makes a big play,” said McNatt, who leads the team with 899 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
“If they’re making the plays, I’m just as happy as I am when I’m making a bunch of plays,” said Rushall, who has 618 yards and five TDs, playing out of the slot.
Owen, who has 717 yards and seven touchdowns, said he couldn’t care less who has the big numbers in a particular game. He does care about one thing.
“We still won?”
Yes, if Camas played football, then Camas won. The Papermakers are 13-0.
Before the season, they knew there were question marks among several of the “skill” position players at Camas. The team did not have returning starters at quarterback and running back. Owen did have 241 receiving yards and four TDs last season, but McNatt and Rushall combined for four catches for 26 yards and one score in 2015.
“I was just motivated to show how much I improved,” Owen said.
Rushall said there was a lot of pressure, taking over the slot position. That has been the main target over the past few years. Colletto, though, just kept throwing it around to whoever he found open, and Rushall said that helped take the weight off his shoulders.
“That’s what makes us work,” McNatt said. “If one guy is struggling or having a bad day, somebody else is going to be there.”
McNatt and Owen said their favorite game of the season was beating Battle Ground. They combined for five TDs that night.
“I was excited about how well we did in that one,” McNatt said.
“It was our first league game,” Owen added. “We wanted to prove Camas football was back, even though we lost a lot of solid players. We definitely did that. Battle Ground was a top-10 team.”
Rushall had a diving catch Saturday against Sumner that was the talk of the stadium. He said that was his favorite game of the season.
“Two undefeated teams trying to go to the state championship,” he said.
Now, they are one win away from history. Camas has never won a state championship in football. These three, unfamiliar to so many before 2016, could be a huge part of the first title team.
“We’re trying to win it for our community and do it for our coaches and our teammates,” said McNatt, a senior.
“We want to show up for all of our fans. We want to show up for our community,” said Rushall, a junior. “We just want to represent.”
“We’re excited to see what happens,” added Owen, also a junior.
Together, they are rooting for each other, for one of them to make a big play.
They have been doing that all season, after all.