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Camas players show they can take a big hit, or two

Papermakers keep focus after illegal hit on Owen

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: November 26, 2016, 8:35pm

The Camas football team absorbed two shots on Saturday.

One was legal, the other not.

One tested its resiliency, the other its composure.

But Camas survived both tests in its 45-21 win over Sumner in the Class 4A state semifinals at McKenzie Stadium. In the process, the Papermakers showed resolve, which is a big reason they will play for the state title next Saturday in Tacoma.

The legal hit Camas absorbed was a figurative counterpunch. When Sumner’s Ben Wilson returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown, Camas had seen a 17-point lead dwindle to 24-21 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

How did Camas respond? With 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Its first drive after Sumner’s pick-six was a 10-play, 63-yard touchdown drive that featured nine straight-forward physical runs.

“The great thing about our team is that there are a lot of great leaders,” quarterback Jack Colletto said. “None of us gave up, especially after that play.”

The illegal hit Camas absorbed came late in the first half. Drake Owen waited to catch a punt, but was smashed by Sumner’s Tyson Rainwater before the ball arrived.

The personal foul left Owen dazed, his chin bleeding, and his teammates angry. Though the packed Camas side of McKenzie Stadium chanted “kick him out,” Rainwater was not ejected.

How did Camas respond? Not with cheap shots or penalties, but with clean, physical football.

“We just had to stay focused,” coach Jon Eagle said. “Sure, you’re upset, but what are you going to do? Retaliate? That doesn’t help the situation. We just needed to get back to doing what we were doing. And the guys did a good job doing that.”

Eagle’s message was echoed by his players.

“We were fired up,” receiver Ryan Rushall said. “But we didn’t want to cause any penalties ourselves or play dirty. There were a lot of guys helping keep everyone under control. That was good.”

Owen, a junior, said he remembers calling for the fair catch, then feeling the impact. Owen said teammates told him the crown of Rainwater’s helmet hit him in the jaw. His chin showed a bloody gash.

Owen went through concussion tests and didn’t return to the game. He said he remembered “most” of the play. He’ll always remember how his teammates had his back.

“Our motto is ‘play for your brother next to you.'” Owen said. “That really helps us. We rally around that motto.”

Camas enters the 4A championship game having survived its toughest test of the season.

The Papermakers showed poise. They showed resiliency. And because of that, they will enter the Tacoma Dome with confidence.

“We faced some adversity this game,” Rushall said. “As a team, we overcame it and showed we can get through anything.”