Onalaska came up one game short of where it wanted to be but the Loggers’ run this season was still an impressive feat.
The Loggers fell behind early and couldn’t overcome Kalama quarterback Jackson Esary’s six-touchdown performance in a 46-30 defeat in the 2B state semifinals Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Centralia.
Onalaska fell behind 20-0 with nine minutes left in the second quarter after Esary exploded for three touchdowns of 46 yards or more. The Loggers didn’t get on the scoreboard until Marshall Haight scored on a 2-yard run with 7:57 left before the break to make it 20-8.
Onalaska would get no closer as Esary would score three more touchdowns to put Kalama up 40-8 midway through the third quarter. Haight would score on a 43-yard TD run in the third quarter and the Loggers would tack on two more TDs in the final four minutes of the game but ultimately couldn’t pull off the comeback.
“You can’t take anything away from these guys and this season,” Onalaska coach Mazen Saade said of his team. “Proud of how we finished. No one thought we’d get here, especially after having five losses.”
Onalaska was hoping to defend its 2019 state championship, which was over Kalama, but it wasn’t meant to be on a rainy, windy Saturday afternoon.
For the Loggers to even reach the semifinals was a feat in and of itself. Onalaska started its season out 2-5 after running through the toughest gauntlet of any 2B team in the state. That stretch included 2B’s No. 1 Kalama, No. 2 Napavine, a Toledo team that made it to the state quarterfinals, 1A’s Lynden Christian and Tenino (both state participants) and a Rainier, Oregon team that qualified for the state tourney.
Onalaska then blew out River View in the state opener, 62-8, then crushed Lind-Ritzville/Sprague, 54-15, in the quarterfinals to set up a showdown with Kalama.
It was a chance at redemption for the Loggers, who were blasted by the Chinooks, 58-6, in a regular-season matchup on Oct. 16. But Esary, the top 2B quarterback in the state, lived up to his star reputation, passing for four TDs and running in two others.
Now, Onalaska ends its season with a 7-6 record. For Haight, a senior who capped off his prep career with two rushing TDs on the day, he’ll always remember the grit and fire of his teammates.
“Funkiest team I’ve ever played with,” Haight said. “We’ve got kids that are weirdly overly nice and the other ones are just (not so nice). There’s no inbetween.”
What Saade will remember most about this team was their willingness to tackle adversity head-on, their camaraderie, their love for the game and their smiles.
“Every day they came and they just smiled,” Saade said. “They smiled and they went to work. A lot of people think they’re squirrely kids. They’re some of the greatest kids I’ve ever been around.
“I told them after, “It hurts, but if this is the hardest thing you’ll go through then you’ll live a blessed life. I’m privileged to coach these guys.”