Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Dec. 7, 2021

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Sometimes a nebula shines brightest on a football team

High schools: Tim Martinez

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

Once again, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will come with a side of high school football.

It’s the fourth consecutive season at least one team from Clark County has advanced to the state semifinals.

And each of the previous local teams to make deep state runs had a couple of things in common.

They were all good teams with good players. But they also each had “the guy” — the one special player that other teams needed to account for in their defensive game plan.

The 2016 4A state champion Camas Papermakers had Jack Colletto. The 2017 2A state champion Hockinson Hawks had Canon Racanelli. The 2018 2A state champion Hockinson Hawks had Sawyer Racanelli. And the 2018 4A state champion Union Titans had Lincoln Victor.

And this year, the Hockinson Hawks, who will return to the 2A state semifinals when they face top-seeded Tumwater at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater, have quarterback Levi Crum.

But Clark County’s other semifinalist, the Camas Papermakers, who will face Mount Si of Snoqualmie in the 4A semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at McKenzie Stadium, they have … ummm …

Who is “the guy” for the 2019 Papermakers?

The 4A Greater St. Helens League offensive player of the year didn’t play for Camas. He’s also not playing right now, as his season ended two weeks ago.

The league had two co-defensive players of the year, and neither one of them played for Camas. Their seasons have also ended.

But the Papermakers keep on rolling.

Part of Camas’ success In 2019 could be rooted in the fact that the Papermakers don’t have a star. They have a nebula.

Camas has a roster of really good players who can seemingly step into a key role and perform in a big way. The Papermakers have done it all year.

Their starting quarterback in Saturday’s win over Puyallup, senior Blake Ascuitto, was on the bench a month ago. On Saturday, he threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

Receiver Jackson Clemmer had six catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half.

Going in last Saturday’s game against Puyallup, 12 other area receivers had more catches than Clemmer’s 31. But with his two TD catches on Saturday, Clemmer has scored 15 on the season, more than any player in the region. More than 40 percent of his catches have resulted in touchdowns.

And then there was running back Jacques Badolato-Birdsell, who rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. That’s certainly a star performance.

But then you see that Randy Yaacoub rushed for 158 yards and two TDs.

Camas has rushing contributions in previous weeks from Gabe Guo. And Tyler Forner, who was selected as a first-team all-league running back, picked up his first rushing attempt of the postseason on Saturday, rushing for a 2-yard touchdown.

And that’s where Camas’ depth has come into play. It has allowed coach Jon Eagle to limit Forner’s action to defense, where he’s a standout linebacker as well as a dangerous return man, and keep him fresh.

But the Papermakers’ biggest stars could be up front.

Despite three-star recruit Caadyn Stephen being sidelined with a nagging back injury since Week 3, the Papermakers’ offensive line has not missed a beat, behind the solid play all-league seniors Rush Reimer, Tristan Souza, Tai Tumanuvao and Tyler Criddle.

They paved the way for 356 rushing yards on Saturday against Puyallup. They kept Ascuitto from being sacked or even pressured by Puyallup.

That’s a dangerous combination.

And, of course, the Camas defense has been stout. The 27 points Puyallup scored was the most Camas has allowed all season, but that number is a bit deceptive.

Camas came very close to making Saturday’s contest a running clock game. The Papermakers had the ball and a 42-7 lead in the third quarter. Puyallup also scored a last-second touchdown when the game was competitively over.

And we haven’t even mentioned the weapon the Papermakers have in kicker/punter Bryce Leighton.

Camas now heads to the semifinals as the only non-KingCo Conference team in the final four.

But Mount Si figures to have its hands full trying to figure out how to beat the Papermakers.

One thing is for sure. The Wildcats won’t be able to focus on “the guy.”