LAKEWOOD — Holding on to a 14-6 lead, and getting a huge stop on fourth down on the goal line, No. 2 Napavine just needed to grind the clock out, or score, to put the game away and claim its fourth state championship against No. 1 Kalama Saturday night.
Backed up on their own two, Gavin Parker was swarmed in his own end zone to give the Chinooks a safety, and after Jackson Esary scored a touchdown and converted on a two-point try, the Tigers couldn’t come back in a 16-14 loss at Harry E. Lang Stadium.
“You get a big stop against a team like that and you’re on the two and you can’t get it out of the end zone,” Tigers coach Josh Fay said. “That was tough to swallow.”
The Tigers led all night to that point, getting out to an early touchdown lead in the first quarter thanks to a Mario Lara 4-yard pick six, before surrendering a touchdown to Esary and the Chinooks to close out the half.
Then the Tigers again built up an 8-point lead, after they converted on two third-and-longs and a fourth-and-13 when Ashton Demarest found Glade Shannon on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone for a score.
But after the safety, the Chinooks smelled blood in the water, and converted on a few key third downs to score on the game-winning drive.
Still, the Tigers managed to hold the Chinooks to a season low scoring and gave Esary fits, sacking him seven times.
“Our defense gutted some things out,” Fay said. “They missed some tackles but Jackson makes you do that. I’m proud of the way we played defensively.”
The loss is Napavine’s second to Kalama in the state championship in the last four seasons.
While the Tigers flourished defensively, they struggled mightily on offense. The Chinooks loaded the box and held Parker to just 19 yards on 11 carries, and picked off Demarest three times on deep balls.
“They brought those linebackers up pretty quick and they have a monster in Jackson Esary in there,” Fay said. “It's not our best night blocking but I’m sure some of that had to do with their schemes.”
Demarest finished with 106 rushing yards, 97 passing yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. Parker was Napavine’s leading receiver with 37 yards on two catches.
As painful as the loss is, the Tigers put together one of their best seasons in recent memory, running out with a Central 2B League North title and dominating opponents until the state final Saturday.
“We competed every week, I thought,” Fay said. “These kids did a lot of good stuff. We played a good football team and we just came up short tonight.”