It was a simple slant route on third-and-long designed to give Kalama some much-needed breathing room while they were backed up against their own end zone. Jacob Herz turned it into the game-deciding play. Herz hauled in the pass from Alex Dyer with one hand then outraced the Napavine defense to come up with a spectacular 95-yard touchdown reception. It proved to be the only points of the second half. The Tigers never found equalizer as they fell to the Chinooks, 20-13, in the Class 2B state football semifinals at Centralia High School on November 25.
The loss ends Napavine’s season one-game shy of reaching the state championship for a record-tying fourth consecutive year.
The Tigers finished the season with a record of 11-2 with both setbacks coming against top-ranked Kalama (13-0). Napavine won last season’s state title with a 34-16 victory over Liberty of Spangle and finished second in both 2014 and 2015.
DeSales (1996-99) remains the only 2B program to play in four straight state title games with the Irish winning in their final three trips to the championship game.
Kalama advances to play Liberty (Spangle) in the state finals on December 2. The Chinook last played for a title in 1999 when they lost Okanogan in the 1A championship.
Napavine, which defeated the Chinooks, 41-6, in the first round of the 2016 state playoffs, dropped an overtime heartbreaker, 14-8, to Kalama during week 2 of the regular season.
A 10-game winning streak followed the loss for the Tigers, sending them back to the state semifinals for a fourth consecutive season and ninth time overall in program history.
Junior Dawson Stanley, the Central 2B League Mountain Division’s offensive most valuable player, got Napavine on the scoreboard first, running it in from 17 yards out on the Tigers’ second possession of the game. A missed PAT made it a 6-0 Napavine advantage, which wouldn’t last long as Dyer immediately drove Kalama down the field, capping the drive with a 39-yard scoring strike to Tucker Wetmore to push the Chinooks into the lead at 7-6.
Wetmore hauled in his second TD, a 10-yard reception from Dyer, with just under 3 minutes left in the second half, increasing the lead to 14-6.
The Tigers were able to take the ball to the Chinooks 6 before a costly miscue on snap pushed them out of the redzone. They would eventually turn the ball over on down, the second of two scoring opportunities in the first half for Napavine where they failed to put any points on the scoreboard.
Not wanting to sit on an 8-point lead at the intermission, Kalama came out throwing and Tigers’ defensive back Garret Shannon made the Chinooks pay, intercepting a Dyer pass at the 30 and returning it to the 2 yard line.
Stanley, who finished with 141 yards on 33 carries, added his second rushing touchdown on the very next play, cutting the deficit to 14-13 at the break for the Tigers.
After a scoreless third quarter, Napavine came up empty handed during a third redzone trip, advancing the ball to the 4 before turning it over on downs.
Three plays later, Dyer hooked up with Herz which would prove to be the game’s final points.
In addition to Shannon, the Tigers will lose seniors Noah Cole, Randy Kinswa, Noah Lantz, Kyson Newcomb, Brad Osborn, Austin Palmer, Jordan Purvis, Joel Ross, Wade Sabin, Jared Weichel, Jordan Weichel and Cameron Wirt next season.
The group went 48-6 during their four-year high school careers with Van Wyck (running back), Purvis (wide receiver/defensive back), Lantz (wide receiver/linebacker), Newcomb (defensive line) and Shannon (defensive back) all earning first-team all-league honors this season.