In many ways, Napavine senior quarterback Laythan Demarest is a lot like Russell Wilson. The shifty signal-caller can escape the pocket and leave defenders grasping at air with 75-yard touchdown runs like he did against Forks on March 5. And he can also air it out with 53-yard long-bomb touchdown passes like he did against Rainier on Feb. 27.
Whatever defenses threw at Demarest, which was usually the kitchen sink, he always seemed to find a way around it.
“Laythan is an explosive runner with impressive acceleration,” Napavine coach Josh Fay said. “He doesn’t need a lot of room and he has excellent vision. One of the biggest reasons Laythan is dangerous to other teams is that he is a solid passer. Teams have to decide if they want to defend the run or the pass. And, in our system, we have been fortunate to have a quarterback that can be effective, regardless of what defenses want to do to us.”
Demarest and the Tigers put many defenses in check en route to a 5-1 record, which included ripping off a five-game winning streak to end the season.
Demarest exploded for a county-best 1,519 total yards and 22 touchdowns in this shortened season. He led the county in rushing touchdowns with 13 and finished with the second-most rushing yards with 980. In the passing game, he threw for 539 yards and nine scores. That’s why Demarest is The Chronicle’s All-Area Offensive MVP.
On the defensive side, no one did it better than W.F. West senior safety Cade Haller. The 5-foot-10 ballhawk may not look like the most imposing figure at first, until one sees him sniff out an opposing offense’s run play and barrel downhill for a clutch stop, or read the quarterback’s eyes and cause a pass disruption on third down. Haller caused fits for opposing quarterbacks, earning him the 2A Evergreen Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s just got a nose for the ball,” W.F. West coach Dan Hill said. “He has an uncanny ability to know what he saw and fly to the ball. He recognizes formations and understands tendencies. He’s the savviest football player I’ve ever coached.”
It’s not by accident that Haller, a three-year starter, knows how to predict what offenses are going to do and how to stop them. He spends more time watching film than anyone on the team, Hill said. It’s the type of dedication that helped him rack up 55 total tackles, force two fumbles, recover two fumbles, pick off one pass and score a defensive touchdown. It’s also why Haller is The Chronicle’s All-Area Defensive MVP.
“I just try to get the ball as fast as I can,” Haller said. “A lot of the times my teammates would push them right to me. I like making tackles and trying to get a pick six.”
Haller is now deciding on whether to play football at Montana Tech or to attend classes at Centralia College.
Senior halfback Max Taylor made the most of his switch from a first-team all-league wideout as a junior in 2019, to halfback his senior season and earning first-team all-league honors there, too. Taylor rushed 50 times for 442 yards, at an 8.4 yards-per-carry clip, and seven rushing TDs. He also showed flashes of his old self in the passing game, with 96 receiving yards and another two scores.
Sophomore quarterback Gavin Fugate, in his first season as a starter, earned first-team all-2A Evergreen Conference honors after completing 61-of-96 passes for 747 yards and 10 TDs, as well as rushing for 96 yards and two more TDs.
On the defensive side, senior d-lineman Darren Gray was also a first-team all-league selection after racking up 48 solo tackles, including 10.5 for loss, four sacks and forcing two fumbles. Senior linebacker Evan Moon was also a first-team selection, totalling 66 tackles with five for loss and two sacks.
Senior lineman Paris Chavez, senior tight end Benito Valencia and senior safety Santos Lafferty each collected first-team all-2A EvCo honors at their respective positions to earn their spots on the all-area team. Valencia had 10 receptions for 257 yards and two scores, while Chavez is deciding on which college he’s going to play at this fall. Lafferty overcame a troubled past, put in the work in the weight room and earned his place as one of the top two safeties in the county.
Junior Talon Betts made the switch from all-league wideout as a sophomore in 2019 and earned his way to first-team all-league honors at tailback this season under new coach A.J. Easley. Betts rushed for 711 yards, fourth-highest in our coverage area, to go with nine rushing TDs. He also caught 21 passes for 279 yards and another score. He ended with 11 total TDs.
Senior teammate James Jimenes tallied 40 solo tackles, including nine for loss, to earn first-team all-league at linebacker. Senior offensive lineman Hayden Dahl was also selected as all-league first-team.
It wasn’t the season the Pirates, coming off a state semifinal appearance, had hoped for, earning just one win after the senior class entered the season with 30 total victories the past three years. It didn't help that the Pirates lost one of the best lineman in the county, all-state senior Lane Baker, to a pre-season knee injury. Still, there were some flashes of promise, most notably from senior safety Zach Berg and junior linebacker Gabe Slape. Slape racked up 175 tackle points (53 solo, 69 assists), averaging 29 total tackles per game. Adna’s season record is 215 and Slape was on pace for 320 during this shortened season. Berg added 130 tackle point (26 solo, 68 assists) and has an offer from Pacific University in Oregon.
Sophomore Carter Dantinne made his presence known in the newly-formed Lower East-West Division, rushing 73 times for 531 yards and eight touchdowns while tacking on one receiving TD. He ran for 281 yards and five TDs in a 48-13 season-opening win over Ocosta.
Quarterback Aiden Weist led the Vikings as they navigated the Class 1B ranks for the first time ever this season. Weist was 26-of-48 passing for 446 yards, seven touchdowns and zero, count them, zero, interceptions.
Cade Evander didn’t get a chance to make a run this year at increasing his single-season school-record of 23 sacks. Instead, with just six games, he recorded six sacks while hauling in a 302 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Junior linebacker Gavin Parker was the Tigers top defender and was the heart and soul of a defense that shored itself up after surrendering 38 points in the season opener. The Tigers rebounded from that loss to reel off five-consecutive victories, and teams knew a beast had woken after the Tigers handed Kalama a 49-32 loss in week two. It all culminated in a 42-28 season-finale win over rival Onalaska in what could easily have been called the 2B state title game.
Junior lineman Keith Olson, not only the best lineman in the county but one of the best in the state, showed why the 3-star prospect already has offers from Oregon State and Cal, with devastating run blocking and impenetrable pass blocking.
The Loggers’ season ended the one way they didn’t want it to; a loss to their cross-freeway rivals. On the positive side, they beat what could easily have been the top three teams in the entire 2B state (Napavine, Forks, Kalama) had there been a state tourney.
That was due to a multitude of players. The most surprising was the biggest question mark heading into the year: junior fullback Marshall Haight, who was stepping into the starting role one year after his older brother earned 2B State Player of the Year. Haight lived up to expectations and led the county with 1,005 rushing yards on 191 carries for a 5.23-yards-per-carry clip to go with nine touchdowns.
Halfback Gunnar Talley added 68 carries for 564 yards (8.2 a carry) and scored eight times. Tight end Kayden Allison proved to be one of the strongest 2B lineman in the state and was a big part of Haight’s and Talley’s rushing success. Senior linebacker Spencer Hamilton was not only the emotional and vocal leader for the Loggers, he was also a surefire tackler and their top defender. Senior offensive lineman Joaquin Patraca was the team’s top blocker and was the glue that held the line together.
The Vikings, like Adna, didn’t find their usual success this season with a team full of underclassmen. Titans’ junior Kaden Ritzman was the team’s leading tackler with 41 solos, for 8.2 tackles per game, and was the anchor on both sides of the line.
There’s few other guys one would want to go into battle with than Mountaineers’ quarterback Mike Green. The stalwart senior threw for an area-high 925 yards to go with nine touchdowns through the air and ran for 231 more yards and two touchdowns.
Senior workhorse Davin Kinsman finished with the third-highest rushing yards in the county (773) on 127 carries with seven touchdowns. Senior teammate Jacob Marley, a Dickinson State commit, racked up a county-leading 9.5 sacks on the year and was the team’s vocal leader. Fellow senior Carlo Arceo-Hansen led all tight ends in the county with 402 receiving yards and five total touchdowns on 17 catches.
The Beavers used a two-pronged attack against opponents in 2021 and one would be hard-pressed to find a better one-two punch. Senior Robert Marti, a Pacific Lutheran commit, anchored both sides of the line and earned his fourth first-team all-league honors this season. He’s also a three-year team captain. Junior Takari Hickle, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound halfback and defensive end, was an imposing force on both sides of the ball. The 3-star recruit, who already has an offer from Nevada, compiled 45 tackles, four sacks and an area-best 16 tackles for loss.