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April 16, 2021

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All-Region football: All guts & finally glory

Camas’ Tumanuvao is first lineman to earn All-Region top honor

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Offensive linemen, the glory is yours.

Throughout its football state championship run, Camas’ offensive line drew praise for its size, skill, athleticism and completeness as a unit. It paved the way for quarterbacks Jake Blair and Blake Asciutto to throw a combined 2,500-plus yards and 27 touchdowns, a running game that had more than 3,500 rushing yards and an offense that averaged 41.7 points per game.

None of that happens without the big guys up front, who proved to be a major focal point for opposing teams when game planning for the Papermakers.

Since 2001, when The Columbian began All-Region teams in football, no offensive lineman earned player of the year honors.

That changes now in 2019. But if veteran Camas center Tai Tumanuvao, The Columbian’s All-Region football player of the year had it his way, he’d share this honor with the rest of the Papermakers’ starting line: Tristan Souza, Tyler Criddle, Josue Espoinoza, Rush Reimer and tight end Kenny Wright. Caadyn Stephen, a USC commit, also started three games at left tackle and senior Titan Phillips started six games at tight end.

All for one, one for all.

“That’s that unit people don’t understand. It’s hard to give awards to the O-line,” Tumanuvao said. “We’re all one group together.”

Team success started with that group, an all-senior starting offensive line. Camas completed an undefeated season on its self-described “Revenge Tour” to win the program’s second state title earlier this month. It defeated Bothell, 35-14, in the 4A championship game to win the program’s second title in four seasons.

Tumanuvao, a 6-foot, 275-pound senior, understands why playing offensive line is more guts than glory, but he and his linemates find joy in it every day. What makes an offensive line great — this Camas line so great — starts with trust in each other.

“I commend them for making the O-line so special and different,” Tumanuvao said. “And you don’t get the glory, but you get the same ring. Everybody who is part of the O-line is a cut above in my mind.”

Camas’ skill players know where the praise starts. Leading rusher Jacques Badolato-Birdsell doesn’t hesitate when he calls this offensive line the best in the state. Quarterback Blake Asciutto said he wouldn’t be the player he is if not for this offensive line paving the way.

The man in the middle — and the center of it all — is a player longtime offensive line coach Justen Wochnick calls the boss and a coach on the field.

Playing center is about timing, communication, organization and one-on-one battles as the cornerstone of an offensive line. Centers are responsible for making protection calls to keep quarterbacks upright while fighting off defensive linemen trying to put them on all fours when they snap the ball.

It’s a lot of work in tight corners, plus making sure the left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle are on the same page every snap at the line of scrimmage. Once a play is complete, they do it all over again.

“The thing that makes the O-line really awesome is that you have to pay attention to it,” Tumanuvao said, “and make sure you’re focused on it.

“There’s nothing like making somebody else (across the line) do what they don’t want to do,” he continued. “Being able to block somebody and push them back 5 yards and push them over, there’s nothing like that.”

The offensive line did a lot of that throughout 14 games. Reflecting on Camas’ title-winning season, Tumanuvao brings up the emotions of Camas’ victory over Bothell among the sea of red and black at Mount Tahoma Stadium.

Tumanuvao said the electric atmosphere reminded him of playing at Camas’ Doc Harris Stadium, but what he didn’t anticipate emotions starting pregame in the locker room.

Teams aren’t guaranteed another week together once the postseason arrives, but by playing in Week 14, Camas knew this was the finale. That’s why emotions poured out when head coach Jon Eagle delivered his pre-game speech and when Tumanuvao — like he’s done all season — led the team in prayer.

Feelings were equally strong postgame for the centerpiece of the offensive line, and for an offensive line that was the centerpiece in Camas’ championship season.

“By the time the clock hit zero, almost all the emotions were already out,” Tumanuvao said of the championship game celebration. “For me, I was looking for all the guys who made it happen — all my O-line guys. … It was the best game of their lives.”

All-Region Team

OFFENSE

Levi Crum, Hockinson

Senior, QB

Threw for 2,611 yards and 35 touchdowns and ran for 808 yards and 13 scores. 

Jacques Badolato-Birdsell, Camas

Junior, RB

Rushed for a school-record 1,602 yards and 29 touchdowns, including three in the title game.

Jalynnee McGee,     Skyview

Senior, RB

Portland State signee ran for 1,282 yards and 28 touchdowns on 175 carries for the Storm.

Jackson Clemmer, Camas

Senior, WR

The 6-foot-6 receiver caught 45 passes for 1,134 yards and 17 scores.

Peyton Brammer, Hockinson

Senior, WR

Hauled in 33 passes for 703 yards and 11 touchdowns before knee injury ended season.

Jeremiah Faulstick, Hockinson

Senior, TE

Grabbed 30 passes for 559 yards and six touchdowns in Hawks’ semifinal run.

Rush Reimer, Camas

Senior, OL

Montana State commit was powerful right tackle for dominant Papermakers rush attack.

Brody Schaefli, Prairie

Junior, OL

Six-foot-5, 260-pound tackle was key piece in offense that averaged 44 points per game.

Takumi Veley, Hockinson

Senior, OL

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound interior lineman was influential part of semifinal run.

Tristan Souza, Camas

Senior, OL

Six-foot-2, 280-pound guard/defensive tackle dominated on both sides of the ball.

Rocky Mataia, Union

Senior, OL

The 6-foot-2, 265-pound tackle played both ways for the state-qualified Titans.

Zyell Griffin, Evergreen

Senior, AP/KR

Speedster tallied 1,124 offensive yards and 10 touchdowns. He had a pair of 99-yard scores.

DEFENSE

Robert Silva, Camas

Junior, DL

The 6-foot, 260-pound tackle tallied seven sacks in championship year for Camas.

Trey Knight, Ridgefield

Senior, DL

The USC track and field signee was impactful for Spudders in first prep football season.

Josiah Cochran, Skyview

Senior, DL

Six-foot-4, 225-pound end tallied seven sacks and had an interception for Storm. 

VA Ili, Mountain View

Senior, DL

The undersized (5-7, 210) but quick interior lineman finished with six sacks for Thunder.

Cooper Barnum, Skyview

Senior, LB

WSU baseball commit was cog in Storm defense that  allowed 15.6 points per game.

Tyler Forner, Camas

Senior, LB

A star in all facets of the game, most notably in the heart of a stout Camas defense.

Brevan Bea, Washougal

Senior, LB

Recorded a team-high 118 tackles and five forced fumbles in historic Panther year.

Tyler Summers, Union

Senior, LB

Six-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker was the 4A GSHL co-defensive player of the year.

Liam Mallory, Hockinson

Sophomore, DB

Breakout campaign included 10 interceptions on semifinal Hockinson side.

Xavier Owens, Skyview

Junior, DB

Cornerback was key part of Storm defense that allowed 15.6 points per game.

Kolby Broadbent, Camas

Senior, DB

Safety’s signature moment was a blocked punt in state win over Eastmont. 

Bryce Leighton, Camas

Senior, K-P

All-American and Montana State signee’s booming leg shined in Camas’ run.

WILD CARDS

(Wild-card picks are for players who didn’t fit into a spot on All-Region lineup, but whose overall excellence and versatility warranted a spot on the team.)

AJ Dixson, Prairie

Senior QB

Threw for 1,873 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 1,095 yards and 15 scores.

Josh Webb, Kelso

Senior, RB-LB

Ran for 19 touchdowns, 1,444 yards and was named the league’s defensive player of the year.

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