VANCOUVER — Camas inched one step closer.
The undefeated 2-seed Papermakers beat playoff darling Mount Si 35-14 on Saturday at McKenzie Stadium behind four touchdowns from Jacques Badolato-Birdsell to earn a berth to the 4A state championship game for the second time in four seasons.
Camas will face 5-seed Bothell (11-2) next Saturday at Mount Tahoma Stadium for a chance to win another state title.
Here are five takeaways from the semifinal game:
Camas meets fitting opponent to cap ‘Revenge Tour’
Camas’ well-documented slogan throughout the 2019 season has been that this season is its “Revenge Tour,” implying its plans to thrash four of the five teams that beat it a year ago.
Well, bring on the fifth.
In Bothell, Camas not only faces a team it played — and lost to — last season, but also the team that ended its season in a 36-35 defeat in Week 10.
That means if the undefeated Papermakers beat Bothell, they will have exacted revenge on each of the five teams that beat them last season.
Before the season, Camas coach Jon Eagle dismissed the slogan as a piece of motivation more for the players than him.
That may very well be true.
But must admit: the way the slogan has reflected the course of Camas’ season, and the comeuppance the Papermakers have doled out throughout, is now teed up to have something of a storybook ending.
On late, game-sealing drive, Camas’ line was dominant
Mount Si recovered a biffed punt at the Camas 20 early in the fourth quarter, and appeared poised to cut the deficit to a touchdown.
Camas had other plans.
The Papermakers forced a turnover on downs and proceeded to rattle off an eight minute, an 8:33, 84-yard drive that consisted nearly entirely of run plays.
Badolato-Birdsell capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left to force a
Mount Si had no response to Camas’ offensive line. It carved out lanes for Badolato-Birdsell and Randy Yaacoub and was the guiding force behind the Papermakers maintaining complete control.
Badolato-Birdsell reliable in the red zone
Outside of one interception (a Blake Ascuitto underthrow) and a special teams turnover (a muffed punt by Tyler Forner), the Papermakers showed few weak spots on Saturday.
Healthy again, Badolato-Birdsell built on his standout quarterfinal performance with four red zone touchdowns — three, eight, five and two yards.
“I’m thankful for my linemen,” Badolato-Birdsell said. “I couldn’t do any of this without them.”
Stephen appears one step closer to returning to the field
Camas offensive lineman Caadyn Stephen, a three-star USC commit, suited up for the first time since Week 3, but did not play on Saturday.
The senior has battled an undisclosed back injury that has kept him in street clothes throughout the season.
Stephen participated in practice last week, according to The Columbian, and warmed up with the team on Saturday.
It is unclear whether his status will change for the state title, but he appeared to take a step closer to returning to the field.
One of state’s most impressive postseason runs comes to an end
Mount Si Wildcats’ post-game hugs, tears and other outward displays of emotion said it all.
Millen (a “warrior,” per Kinnune) sported a busted and bloodied lower lip as he went from teammate to teammate. Eastern Washington commit, senior offensive lineman Gale Kamp, who has been the anchor of a small offensive line, choked back tears.
Wideout Bradyen Holt, who had a breakout five touchdown game in the first round, met the embrace of Camas senior Kolby Broadbent, who offered a friendly post-game congratulations.
It all marked the end of a stretch of play in which Mount Si felt it had tapped into something special.
“Incredibly improbable November that turned into being one of the most exciting Novembers I’ve had in my coaching career, playing career,” Kinnune, who just concluded his 28th season, said. “Just awesome.”
For two standout chunks of the first half, the Wildcats played in control. They drove 80-yards in less than two and a half minutes and scored to start the game.
Down two touchdowns, Caleb Dalgleigh caught a diving interception from Camas quarterback Blake Ascuitto. The next play, Holt scored on a 24-yard double-reverse to pull within a touchdown.
The Wildcats’ typically high third down conversion rate was less so, and its defense struggled to keep the burly Papermakers off the field down the stretch.
All in all, Kinnune’s message rang through to a team with a young core that loses just 11 seniors.
“Just a great testament to what excellent leadership can do and what an “all-in” attitude can do,” Kinnune said. “We had lightning in a bottle for a while. We really did. This last month was really awesome and we just ran out of steam tonight.”