TACOMA – As Jacques Badolato-Birdsell began to explain his pride in helping Camas win the Class 4A football championship, the words stuck in his throat.
Then, tears began to mix with the mist that had fallen onto his face.
That was the only time Badolato-Birdsell was stopped on Saturday.
The junior running back was the driving force behind Camas’ 35-14 win over Bothell in the championship game at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
He rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries. The yardage and the workload were both season-highs in a year where Badolato-Birdsell powered through injuries like they were would-be tacklers trying to take him down.
Ankle issues dogged Badolato-Birdsell for much of the season. That forced him to miss the team’s game against Battle Ground on Oct. 18. Six days later, a re-aggravation of that injury kept him out of the second half of Camas’ 21-17 win over Skyview.
“I knew I had to step up and beat the injury,” he said. “It was really bugging me. But I went to rehab and took care of that.”
Finally 100-percent healthy, Badolato-Birdsell showed a mix of speed and power that had Bothell’s defenders on their heels.
“I’m so proud of him,” Camas lineman Rush Reimer said. “He did get hurt, but he healed up and dominated this game.”
As Camas entered the postseason, Badolato-Birdsell gained steam. He had 17 carries, 99 yards and three touchdowns in a first-round win over Eastmont. He followed that with 185 yards on 20 carries against Puyallup.
In the semifinals against Mount Si, Badolato-Birdsell had 152 yards on 29 carries, his largest workload to that point.
But he wasn’t sure he was 100 percent until the second quarter on Saturday. That’s when he broke off a 48-yard touchdown run, juking tacklers along the way to give Camas a 21-0 lead.
“When I got the long run and did the spin move on the guy, I knew something was working,” Badolato-Birdsell said.
Badolato-Birdsell plays with a passion. The same emotion that choked him up after Saturday’s win was infectious to teammates during the game.
“When he cracks some people, you just get so hyped,” Reimer said. “When he sees you crack someone, he gets hyped too.”
Badolato-Birdsell said that passion comes from his upbringing. Adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a child, he takes pride in both his American family and his heritage.
“I’m just trying to represent and show that we can do better,” he said.
Camas and Badolato-Birdsell couldn’t be much better than they were on Saturday. It was a perfect culmination of a perfect 14-0 season.
The mist that fell on the trophy presentation didn’t dampen the celebration. It might as well have been confetti falling.
And it was in that setting where Badolato-Birdsell’s tears joined the rain that blessed Camas’ second football championship in school history.
“It means the world,” Badolato-Birdsell said. “We had a goal to eventually beat every team that we lost to last year. We just proved anything can happen. It’s emotional. This means everything.”