Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Jan. 19, 2022

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Familiar foes Kalama, Napavine play for 2B football title

Though teams haven’t played this season, they are common foes in past postseasons

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

In every full season since Kalama moved to Class 2B, the Chinooks have crossed paths with Napavine in the postseason.

In 2016, the Chinooks lost to the Tigers 41-6 in the state quarterfinals.

In 2017, Kalama beat Napavine 20-13 in the semifinals en route to the state title.

In 2018, the Chinooks beat Napavine 34-25 for the state title.

And in 2019, Kalama won a 44-42 thriller over the Tigers in the semifinals.

But Saturday, when the Chinooks and Tigers tangle again for the 2B state championship in Lakewood, the matchup will have a fresh twist for Kalama coach Sean McDonald.

“This is the first season that we’ll be playing Napavine for the first time,” McDonald said. “We didn’t play them in the preseason like we’ve done in past years. So we aren’t trying to figure out how to beat a really good team for a second time.”

Trying to figure out how to beat Napavine (12-0) once is a challenge enough. The Tigers’ 42-10 win over Okanogan last week was their closest game since a 56-47 win over 1A Montesano on Oct. 1.

Napavine is led by lineman Keith Olson, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound USC commit. The Tigers will look to control the ball with a strong running game led by Gavin Parker.

“We’re going to look to stop the run and make them pass,” McDonald said.

But Napavine’s sophomore quarter Ashton Demarest is more than capable of making plays to a bevy of receivers, so McDonald is switching things up on defense.

“We’re having to go back to the defense we played in the preseason against spread teams like Woodland and La Center,” he said. “It is a switch from the teams we’ve been facing lately who run the Wing-T and like to pound the ball on the ground every play.”

McDonald has moved senior Jack Doerty from the defensive backfield to linebacker. That allows Jackson Esary to play safety, where he can make impacts against the running game and passing game.

“The guy is not only a dude on offense, but he makes an ungodly amount tackles on defense,” McDonald said of Esary. “He’s a once-in-a-decade type of player.”

Esary led the region with 1,772 passing yards and 29 touchdowns in the regular season and has continued to add to that total in the postseason.

Last week against Onalaska, Esary passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 134 yards and three more scores.

In between also those state title game appearances, Kalama endured a 2-3 COVID season last winter that included a 49-32 loss to Napavine in the season opener on Feb. 20.

“You know, it’s hard to get ready for your season in just a week,” McDonald said. “But I also think last season really opened up some eyes on our team. We weren’t the same team we were (in 2019) and we found out we have to work harder to compete with the state’s best teams. We took that away from last season and carried that all the way into this season.”