The Napavine High School scout team offense is having a hard time completing a pass. Blame Jordan Purvis.
A receiver appears to have a step on the cornerback as he runs vertical along the right sideline. Purvis torpedoes in from his safety position at the final moment, leaping high into the air and tipping the ball away at the last second.
Three plays later the senior duplicates the feat on the opposite side of the field, only this time as he swoops in he doesn’t bat down the pass, but instead snags it out of the air spectacularly with just one hand.
There’s hardly any fanfare following the play. The Tigers have seen it before. Purvis has a habit of making the spectacular look routine.
If any opposing team thought the Tigers graduated all its playmakers from last year’s state championship team, they are in for some disappointment.
Napavine features not one, but two of the top skilled players in the 2B Central League in Purvis and fellow senior Noah Lantz. It’s an extremely valuable one-two punch for a Tigers team looking to become the third straight program to win back-to-back state titles in the classification, joining Okanogan, which defeated Napavine in the 2014 and 2015 title games, and Lind-Ritzville-Sprague (2012-13).
On offense both Purvis and Lantz line up at wide receiver, and while physically they are at different ends of the height spectrum – Purvis towers over most defensive backs in the league at 6-foot-3, while Lantz comes in at 5-9 – both are capable of finding the end zone every time they touch the ball.
“They are both so versatile for us. It’s hard to say who our best player is,” said head coach Josh Fay. “(Noah) can do everything. We find a lot of different ways to get him touches. At our level (Jordan) being as long as he is, he’s a tough match up. If we can develop our passing game I think both can have a really successful years.”
Both received second-team all-league honors during the Tigers’ 14-0 campaign last season, which was capped with a 34-16 win over Liberty (Sprangle) in the state title game.
Graduated from that squad is all-state quarterback Wyatt Stanley, along with his favorite target Mac Fagerness, requiring more to be asked, both on the field and off, out of Purvis and Lantz this season.
It’s something the duo has embraced.
“It’s a lot different. Noah and I are going to have to pick it up the leadership side of it. When we play coach said they are going to look to get the ball to us more and we better be prepared come game day,” Purvis said. “We definitely have some big shoes to fill. I think we can do it. We just have to keep getting better every week.”
In Napavine’s season-opening 42-16 win over Raymond the duo’s athletic prowess was on full display with Purvis pulling down seven catches for 108 yards and Lantz adding 66 receiving yards on three grabs and a pair of TD runs.
The one play that stood out among the sea of highlights was Purvis’ 60-yard punt return for a touchdown as Lantz delivered the final key block.
“It definitely helps when you play knowing Noah has my back out there,” Purvis said. “The punt return is a prime example of that. He got a big block that freed me. I had one man to beat and Noah caught up to us and got him. I don’t score if he doesn’t do that.”
In typical Napavine “place the spotlight on your teammate before yourself” fashion, Lantz immediately corrected Purvis on the play.
“I’m pretty sure you would have juked him and scored anyways,” Lantz added.
It’s that team-first mentality that has contributed greatly to the Tigers’ success under Fay’s watch.
“They’re good football players, but they’re probably better people,” Fay said about his two standouts. “They’re leaders in our school, leaders in multiple sports. They’re good kids, fun to have around. Their personalities probably aren’t as dominate as some of the ones we had last year like Wyatt, but both have done a nice job moving into leadership roles. They’re both guys that their teammates respect.”
The duo’s leadership skills were needed early in the season as they were faced with a different type of challenge, something that hasn’t happened at Napavine in two seasons – rallying the team after a loss.
In a battle of the state’s top two 2B teams, top-ranked Napavine fell in overtime to second-ranked Kalama, 14-8, during the second week of the season.
“That loss really put things into perspective,” said Purvis, who hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Dawson Stanley in the fourth quarter for the Tigers’ only score. “Just because we have Napavine across our chest doesn’t guarantee a state championship. You have to work for it and that’s something this team is prepared to do.”
The last time the Tigers suffered a loss it occurred in the 2015 state championship game when they dropped a 35-34 heart-breaker to Okanogan. They responded by winning their next 15 games – a feat Purvis and Lantz hope to duplicate.