CAMAS — The 4A football seeding committee awarded Camas the No. 2 seed with knowledge of several injuries to key players, ranging from nagging to season-ending, on the merits of how the undefeated 4A Greater St. Helens League champion had run through its tough schedule.
Even more dangerous? The Papermakers seem to be getting slightly healthier each week.
That all bore out on Saturday afternoon as Camas beat No. 7 seed Puyallup 56-27 at Doc Harris Stadium to advance to the 4A state semifinals for the first time since its 2016 state championship season. That sets up a 4A state semifinal game against No. 11 seed Mount Si, which upset No. 3 seeded Lake Stevens on Saturday.
And the young Vikings finished a season that ended one game short of where last year’s ended.
Here are five takeaways:
CAMAS RODE FLURRY OF LATE SECOND QUARTER TOUCHDOWNS
Camas scored three quick touchdowns in the final five minutes of the second quarter.
Randy Yaacoub cut loose for a 30-yard touchdown run, Jacques Badolato-Birdsell had a 54-yard score two minutes later and Jackson Clemmer caught a Blake Ascuitto touchdown pass from just inside 15 yards in the final seconds of the half.
That put the Papermakers up 35-7 entering the midway point — a deficit too big for Puyallup to overcome.
“Right before the half we were just hoping for three and we got seven, that was awesome,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said.
CAMAS’ TOP TARGET PEAKING AT PERFECT TIME
Camas’ top receiver last year, Luc Sturbelle, made an enormous leap from his junior to senior season.
He graduated and now plays for Air Force Academy, which left a Clemmer-sized vacancy out wide in Camas’ offense.
“He discovered what he’s capable of,” Eagle said. “I don’t think he discovered that last year, and that’s true of a lot of juniors.”
Clemmer is just south of a 1,000 yard receiving season, and is a feature in an increasingly balanced Papermaker offense.
And he’s a walking highlight. In his first catch of the game, the 6-foot-6 senior elevated and caught a ball over a biting DB, then sped down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown.
His head-turning touchdown catch over a defender with six seconds left in the first half gave Camas an extra cushion. Clemmer’s catches were in the single digits Saturday, but he accounted for more than 150 yards.
ATTENTION, DEFENSES: BADOLATO-BIRDSELL NEARING FULL STRENGTH
When Badolato-Birdsell erupted for his 54-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, it wasn’t just an extra layer of insurance on the scoreboard.
For the Camas junior, the run showed him his ankle, which has been sprained and limited his touches in recent weeks, was healing.
“It felt good knowing I can now trust my ankle,” Badolato-Birdsell said. “It feels 90 percent. I usually play both ways but I can’t really backpedal as well right now. But hopefully coming up (next) week I can play both ways again.”
Badolato-Birdsell’s junior season has been nothing short of a breakout, even with the injury. He had 582 yards rushing through four games, and has a three-star designation by recruiting site 247 Sports.
And with the Papermakers, he’s a part of a multi-pronged backfield that also includes seniors Tyler Forner and Randy Yaacoub. Forner was a first team all-league selection at running back and on Saturday, Yaacoub rushed for two big-yardage touchdowns on runs of 30 and 55 yards.
The success of the run game really helped the Papermakers when they needed to bleed clock in the second half, and Puyallup began to crowd the line.
“It gives us a little bit of burst,” Eagle said of Badolato-Birdsell’s improving health, “but (Yaacoub) had a pretty good day for us too. Those two guys together, like I said, I would imagine the rushing yardage is going to be significant.”
PUYALLUP CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF WHAT’S TO COME
Season-ending losses leave a bitter taste in any team’s mouth, and the Vikings were no exception on Saturday.
They graduate several multi-year standouts — among them Isaiah Dickerson, Montana State commit Danny Uluilakepa, wideout Isaac Clark and lineman Braeden Bellmer.
Uluilakepa was instrumental in the Vikings’ first round win over Eastlake, and had a momentum-shifting interception in the second quarter that was also likely a two-touchdown swing. It led to a Luke Holcomb 32-yard touchdown pass to Dickerson to cut the Camas lead to 14-7.
But once Camas’s offense appeared to be running downhill, the Vikings couldn’t keep up.
Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers sees the young core of players returning next season, and can’t help but think his team will be back in the quarterfinals a third straight year.
“We had a lot of young kids playing this year and they all grew,” Jeffers said. “That was our goal this year and we look forward to being back on this stage next year.”
CAMAS KNOWS MOUNT SI IS NO CINDERELLA
Eagle admittedly doesn’t know much about Mount Si outside of watching its Week 4 win over Skyview on film earlier in the year, but he knows the one thing pretty much everyone knows.
That quarterback Clay Millen? He’s pretty darn good.
“I know (Millen’s) a heck of a player,” Eagle said.
Eagle met Clay Millen’s father, Hugh Millen at a coaching clinic before the season, and the two exchanged texts earlier this week musing over the possibility of a Camas and Mount Si 4A state semifinal game.
Now, the two will pivot to game-planning for one another, in a game that if Eagle gets his way, will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.