CENTRALIA — Kalama High School coach Sean McDonald dreamed of routine trips to the state title game when he took over his alma mater’s football program in 2015.
Bu this level of success in his seven years is difficult to imagine.
With a 46-30 victory over Onalaska on Saturday at Tiger Stadium, the Chinooks are headed to their fourth consecutive Class 2B state championship game.
The Chinooks won state titles in 2017 and 2018, lost to Onalaska in 2019 and will play district rival Napavine for the 2B crown at 4 p.m. Saturday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
“I wanted to turn the program into what it used to be, and I think we did that,” McDonald said. “Kalama is a great football culture town, and just to be able to go back again and make another run at it is awesome.”
In Saturday’s dominating victory, the Chinooks kept cool heads in a heated affair with the defending champion Loggers, who have quickly become one of Kalama’s fiercest rivals.
Jackson Esary totaled 384 yards and six touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters, before sitting the final 18 minutes with a shoulder injury. He expects to be alright for next week’s title game.
Onalaska was led by Marshall Haight, who totaled 169 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Kolby Mozingo added 113 yards on seven carries.
Here are four observations from the Kalama-Onalaska game:
MEYER’S DEEP THREAT OPENS UP KALAMA OFFENSE
Kalama senior receiver Nate Meyer hauled in five passes for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Twice, he got deep behind the Onalaska defense, as Esary found him for scores of 48 and 57 yards.
While the Chinooks usually like to spread the wealth among receivers — five receivers caught passes Saturday — Meyer was Esary’s favorite against Onalaska.
Esary finished 12-of-18 passing for 261 yards. He also threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jaxxon Truesdell.
KALAMA THE NEW 2B DYNASTY
Despite four consecutive state championship game appearances, three of which have come during Esary’s time with the team, the senior quarterback won’t utter the “D” word just yet.
“We’ll be a dynasty if we win,” Esary said. “We have to win the game first.”
‘LOSING AIN’T AN OPTION’
Napavine and Kalama have had their share of thrilling contests over the past five years.
The Chinooks lead the series, 5-4, since 2016, with Napavine winning the most recent matchup, 49-32 in the spring. But Kalama topped Napavine, 44-42, in the 2019 state semifinals, and 34-25 in the 2018 state championship game.
The two have met in every state tournament since the Chinooks moved to Class 2B in 2016.
“Losing ain’t an option,” Esary said. “We know what they’re coming with … It’s going to be a good one.”
LOGGERS LET EMOTION GET BEST OF THEM
Onalaska’s physically demanding style of play requires the Loggers to play with a great intensity. That emotion boiled over into yellow-flag territory Saturday, as Onalaska was punished for a handful of personal fouls and another handful of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Twice, the game broke into small scrums after the play, including the final nail in the fourth quarter when Kolby Mozingo was ejected for his second personal foul.
Kalama had just one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“We talked all week long about keeping the composure,” McDonald said. “It’s a very emotional game, but I think we kept it under wraps as well as we could.”
The Loggers, who had one of the toughest schedules in the state, finished the year 6-6, and end their reign atop the 2B ranks.
(Featured photo by Joshua Hart)