Kicking off the football season

Defending champ Camas, among others, start practice

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer

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CAMAS — The Camas Papermakers were one of the last Clark County teams to open football practice Wednesday, the first official day for 2017 high school football practices in Washington.

To pass the time and curb his excitement, senior Jordan Howes turned to YouTube to watch highlights of the Papermakers final game of 2016: The 4A state championship game that capped an undefeated season.

“You remember what that feels like,” said Howes, Camas’ returning starting center, “and then to come out here, is a good feeling.”

Here was Cardon Field, where a program now tagged as the defending 4A state champions took the field minutes after 5 p.m. for the first time since last December’s 24-14 victory over Richland at the Tacoma Dome.

Coach Jon Eagle was careful to make sure the players didn’t forget (sarcastically, of course) — they are the defending state champs — as part of his message to the team before breaking into individual drills.

That and emphasizing, in part, what Camas needs to be successful in 2017. Camas returns six starters from last year’s 14-0 team, and Eagle stressed the Papermakers are not the biggest team. Hence, the emphasis must be on technique, he said.

“Play like you practice,” he said.

Back practicing was an entirely different feeling Wednesday for senior Ryan Rushall. That’s because as little as two weeks ago, he didn’t think it’d happen.

Heck, back in the spring, he assumed his senior season might already be a wash.

In March, Rushall had ankle surgery and odds weren’t in his favor for a healthy final season of football.

Rushall had other plans.

He completed physical therapy in four months, and was cleared two weeks ago for the first practice. He estimated he was at 85 to 90 percent Wednesday, and is hoping to be 100 percent by the team’s season opener Sept. 1 against Oregon 6A Central Catholic.

While unable to participate in spring and summer ball, filling the leadership void left by the graduated senior class on the state championship team motivated Rushall to power through the odds.

“Football is my passion,” he said. I can just come out here and all the stress is gone. I love being out here with my brothers. I was scared, but all that is good now.”

NOTES: Ex-Camas assistant Tom Schroeder is one of four locals who are first-time head coaches: Schroeder takes over at King’s Way, joining Ray Lions (Hudson’s Bay), Steve Broussard (Fort Vancouver) and Battle Ground (Mike Kesler). … Seton Catholic took the field for the first time as a rebirthed program after last season’s hiatus. It will play all home games on its newly turfed field on its campus, 9000 N.E. 64th Ave., Vancouver.