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Friday Night Flashback: Titans’ terrific triumph was stepping stone to a state title

2017 victory over Camas helped launch Union to championship in 2018

By , Columbian sports reporter
Published:
5 Photos
Union head coach Rory Rosenbach pauses before congratulating his team after Friday night's rivalry game at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas on Oct. 27, 2017. Union defeated Camas 14-13.
Union head coach Rory Rosenbach pauses before congratulating his team after Friday night's rivalry game at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas on Oct. 27, 2017. Union defeated Camas 14-13. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Union football’s 14-13 victory over Camas in 2017 solidified the direction of the Titans program. Without that victory on a crisp October night at Doc Harris Stadium, does Union go on to win the title the next season?

“No, I don’t think so,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “That catapulted and propelled us. It lit that fire.”

The victory, which ended a 58-game regular-season win streak by the Papermakers and sealed a 4A Greater St. Helens League title, set a blueprint for the Titans. In the biggest games, Union’s defense could stifle anybody. In the biggest moments, their stars could perform.

After falling behind 13-0 in the first half — a death sentence for most teams facing Camas, Rosenbach said — the Titans rallied back in the fourth quarter. A 19-yard Lincoln Victor pass on fourth-and-12 hit Aiden Nellor on a seam route in the end zone for Union’s first score.

“I honestly didn’t know it was fourth down,” Nellor said in a recent interview. Nellor now plays tight end at Eastern Washington University. “I just knew I’d be open and there was one guy to beat.”

It wasn’t a pass Victor was particularly comfortable with that year. Union practiced it a lot, but Victor, a junior at the time, struggled completing it at that point in his career. Still, the coaching staff put faith in their quarterback.

“He’s built for those moments because of the way he prepares himself and the belief he has in his guys,” Rosenbach said. “I don’t know if I’ve had a better leader in my 20 years of coaching.”

After a three-and-out by Camas, Union marched down the field and Jojo Siofele scored on a 5-yard sweep with under 4 minutes left. The extra point gave Union the 14-13 victory.

Despite the late-game heroics, it was a pair of plays from Dustin Nettles — one good and one bad — that proved difference makers. Nettles blocked an extra point attempt in the second quarter. He then jumped offside on a fourth-and-6 field goal attempt in the third quarter. It forced Camas to go for it on fourth-and-1, when Union stuffed the attempt.

“If they get the first down, that game is realistically over,” Rosenbach said. “It left the door open for us.”

Camas didn’t record a first down the rest of the game and its seven year run as a league champion came to a close. In front of a raucous crowd of 7,000, the Titans — who faced a running-clock defeat the year before — took down the behemoth.

“With what it meant to our program, it’s one of the biggest successes I’ve been a part of,” Rosenbach said.

For Nellor, the 2017 Union-Camas game ranks a close second behind EWU’s 2018 national championship game.

“I remember the game starting off with the national anthem and the fireworks going off,” Nellor recalled. “That was like the sound of a horn to start a battle.”

Union lost to Sumner in the first round of the state playoffs in 2017 before going undefeated in 2018 to capture the 4A state championship.

Original game story

Union celebrates their victory over Camas after Friday night’s rivalry game at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas. The win snapped a 58-game regular season win streak for Camas.
Triumph of the Titans: No. 5 Union beats No. 1 Camas
Beating the previously unbeaten Camas Papermakers, the state’s top-ranked team all-season, might have seemed surprising.
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