There wasn’t technically anything on the line. There was no gold ball trophy waiting on a collapsible table, no improvised plaque, and nowhere for the winner to advance to after Saturday night’s game.
It was just SWW 2B Football League North and South division champions Napavine and Onalaska playing each other again to wrap up the season, because there wasn’t really any better alternative.
And Napavine, with a chance to pay back the Loggers for a Week 1 pummeling, made the most of the opportunity.
The Tigers scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to hand Onalaska its first loss since 2018, wrapping up an unpredictable, abbreviated football season with a 42-28 win.
Laythan Demarest ran 21 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns and hit 10 of 18 passes for 156 yards and another score in his final game as a Tiger.
The game, informally called a regional championship, featured what were considered by most to be the two best 2B teams in the state after a five-game regular season with its share of irregularities.
“It’s been frustrating. We’ve talked about it — regional championship or state championship, this is what we knew it’d come down to,” Demarest said. “And we knew we needed to win whatever championship we had coming.”
To do so, the Tigers had to dig themselves out of a hole. Onalaska led 28-14 with just over eight minutes left to play, but came up short on a fourth-and-1 deep in Napavine territory.
“Us seniors, we all got together and we realized, ‘Hey, there’s one more quarter left of football — ever,’” Demarest said. “We just stepped it up and came out and finished it.”
The turnover gave the Tigers just enough space to get their foot in the door. On the next play Demarest broke free for a 95-yard touchdown run that whittled the lead to 28-21.
Napavine followed up the score with an onside kick, which sophomore Austin Chapman recovered. A penalty on the Loggers set Napavine up in the red zone, and three plays later Demarest flipped a short pass to Gavin Parker, who took it 12 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
“The first half, they took it to us,” Tiger senior Cade Evander said. “Over halftime, it was a good wakeup call. We put our big boy pants on and just did what we had to do.”
The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the next possession Demarest broke free for 25 yards to set up a two-yard touchdown run from Parker.
The 35-28 advantage, with 2:42 left to play, was Napavine’s first lead of the game.
“It came down to the little things for us,” Onalaska coach Mazen Saade said. “And as the game went on, we didn’t take care of the little things. At the end of the game, I thought they were better blockers and tacklers than we were.”
Onalaska moved the ball across midfield on its next possession, but Napavine’s Scott Burdick notched a big second-down tackle for loss and the Loggers’ next two pass attempts came up short.
Napavine took the ball back on its own 46-yard line, and on the next play running back Tanner Low took off up the right side of the field for a 54-yard touchdown that iced the game.
“It’s one of those games where you’ve got to work for everything that you get, and it would have been easy for us to fold there late,” Fay said. “For a while there I wasn’t sure if they were going to run away with it or not, but our kids bowed their back and they competed until the end.”
Onalaska was in control through the first three quarters behind its ground attack, which piled up 352 total yards. Kolby Mozingo ran 15 times for 187 yards with 37- and 42-yard touchdown runs in the first half, while Gunnar Talley ran eight times for 64 yards with two touchdowns. He opened the scoring with a 51-yard touchdown three minutes into the game.
Demarest scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter that pulled Napavine to within 12-7, and his 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter cut the lead to 20-14.
Braiden Osborn, a senior who took over kicking duties the second week of the season, hit all six of his PATs and had been a bright spot for the Tigers all season, Fay said.
Talley’s second score gave the Loggers the 28-14 advantage they carried into the final frame.
Marshall Haight ran 28 times for 98 yards for Onalaska. Talley and Braedon Marshall both picked off passes in the first half for the Loggers.
The Tigers had lost to Onalaska, 38-0, in both teams’ season opener back on Feb. 15. The Loggers came into the game on an 18-game winning streak, having not lost since the state quarterfinals in November of 2018.
“We knew we were embarrassed of how we’d played,” Demarest said. “We knew we needed to battle back and prove everybody wrong.”
They also approached the game as more than just a crossover matchup.
“Every single day, we said, ‘Hey, this is our state championship game,’” Demarest said. “Especially for us seniors that lost our sophomore year. We knew this was as close as we were ever going to get to one.”
Fay agreed, pointing out that all four state semifinalists over the last two years have come from District 4.
“I mean, what are we going to do? We told them this was a state championship,” Fay said. “You know, this is the defending state champion. … When you hold all the cards for the semifinals the last couple years, you’ve got to feel like — through six games anyway — you’ve got to feel like you’re the best around.”
Demarest, Evander, Osborn, Low, Ethan Lantz, Austin Gilbert, Aiden Groves, Aiden Miller, Leighton Sparrow, Elijah Fullerton and Fernando Gaona all played their final games as Tigers (5-1).
“They’re good kids,” Fay said. “I’m going to miss them a lot and I feel terrible for them, but hopefully there’s some solace in this victory.”
It was the final game for Logger seniors Danny Dalsted, Spencer Hamilton, Joaquin Patraca, B.J. Cleveland-Barrera, Hank Rider, Kayden Allison, Cole Zandell, Alex Pannkuk, Braedon Marshall and Nick Spillman. Onalaska finished the season with a 5-1 record.
“I thought the seniors did a heck of a job with the leadership this year,” Saade said.
“I’m proud of them for the season we’ve had,” he added. “It would have been easy for these kids to fold when COVID hit, and they didn’t. They hung in there and they worked, and I’m proud of them.”
On Wednesday, Adna hammered Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, 33-0, at home in a battle of the winless. On Saturday, in a crossover playoff matchup, the Titans flipped the script on the Pirates.
In an impressive defensive effort by both teams, the Titans and Pirates battled to a regulation stalemate and headed into overtime tied at 0-0. PWV finally drove down to Pirate territory and faced a 4th-and-5 in what would be a 35-yard field goal. An offsides penalty on the offense quickly made it a 40-yard field goal.
It didn’t matter. PWV sophomore Garrett Keeton’s kick sailed through the uprights to give the Titans its first win of the year in a 3-0 revenge victory over the Pirates on Saturday in Montesano.
PWV assistant coach John Peterson said there was one difference between Wednesday’s and Saturday’s games: head coach Josh Fluke pushed the team to turn things around for their final game of the year.
“Coach Fluke motivated those guys,” Peterson said. “And they went out there and did it.”
Keeton, who booted a 47-yard field goal at practice at Crogstad Field in Menlo, had a whale of a game, recording three sacks for a total loss of 34 yards as the Titans registered seven total sacks as a team.
Fluke also decided to move sophomore Kaidan Perkins to outside linebacker for the first time, while moving Kaden Ritzman to the defensive line. Perkins tallied seven total tackles and Ritzman added a dozen.
Adna freshman quarterback Lane Johnson, playing in just his second varsity game behind center, was 10-for-20 passing for 179 yards and two picks.
PWV ends its season with a 1-4 record while Adna finishes with a 1-5 record.
Senior tailback Davin Kinsman ran for 142 yards and two scores and Trey Rego tacked on 124 yards rushing and another two scores as Toledo topped Rainier 28-18 in a crossover playoff matchup Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Centralia.
Jacob Marley added nine rushes for 68 yards and two 2-point conversions, while quarterback Ryan Bloomstrom was 1-for-7 passing for a 37-yard completion to Carlo Arceo-Hansen.
The Indians improve to 4-2 overall with their only losses coming to Onalaska and Kalama, two of the top four teams in the state. Toledo coach Mike Christensen said he’ll remember how much fun this group of seniors had playing football for him.
“I’m proud of this group of seniors,” Christensen said. “They were freshman my first year coaching here and they will always be the group I remember. They played hard and exceeded expectations. We weren’t ranked top-10 in the state (preseason) and I think they felt disrespected. It was motivation, for sure.”
Rainier (2-5) was led by senior quarterback Michael Green, who was 14-for-22 pasing for 300 yards and three touchdowns of 19, 65 and 77 yards. Riffle Holmes caught four passes for 102 yards, while Jacob Uch caught five passes for 74 yards. Sean Mahaffey had one catch for 65 yards and 10 rushes for 28 yards.