All the ingredients were there for a Napavine High School state football championship. The Tigers enjoyed a two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter and junior quarterback Wyatt Stanley was finding success both with his arm and his legs.
It turned out no lead was safe in the Tacoma Dome over the weekend.
Okanogan showed its resilience, scoring three touchdowns in the game’s final 10 minutes to surprise the Tigers, 36-34, in the Class 2B state championships.
It was the second consecutive year the two programs met in the title game. The Bulldogs won last year’s meeting, 17-14.
“It’s going to sting. They competed and battled,” said Napavine coach Josh Fay. “We just didn’t have enough bullets in the gun to stop the option play.”
Okanogan’s Clay Ashworth effectively directed the Bulldogs’ option offense, rushing for 133 yards on 20 carries and throwing for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 10-of-18 passing.
“He ran it really well. We couldn’t get him to make any mistakes,” said Fay, who guided the Tigers to a state championship in 2008. “We switched our (defensive) responsibilities. The Ashworth kid just did a heck of a job. Give that kid a lot of credit. He just took care of the ball and made good decisions.”
The Bulldogs needed a huge outing out of their signal caller to counter the performance Stanley put on.
Stanley threw for 284 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another. His last TD toss was a 31-yard strike to Mac Fagerness with 6:16 remaining in the contest. The touchdown reclaimed the lead for the Tigers at 34-30, but there proved to be too much time left on the clock for Ashworth, who needed just 3 minutes to get the Bulldogs back into the endzone with Greyson Fields scoring the game winner on a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Napavine (11-3) had one last chance, but Payton Staggs intercepted Stanley’s pass with a minute remaining and Okanogan was able to run out of the clock.
“I’m certainly happy with the way the seniors played. I think they left it on the field tonight,” Fay said. “It was a goal for them to get back in here. Obviously, we wanted a different outcome. It was a lot of hard work to get here. Those guys put in a tremendous amount of effort this season. It’s just too bad. Someone has to win and someone has to lose.”
In last year’s title game, the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter, taking advantage of a fumble recovery for a score and a long TD pass to establish a sizable enough lead before turning away a late rally from Napavine.
In the rematch, it was the Tigers who got off to the fast start, taking a 20-14 advantage into the intermission.
Stanley opened up the scoring with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Purvis in the first quarter before throwing his second TD – a 5-yard pass to Chase Van Wyck – to help the Tigers to a 14-7 lead with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
After a second Ashworth touchdown pass, Stanley hooked up with Fagerness for the first time on a 34-yard touchdown to give Napavine the slim 6-point cushion at the break.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Stanley midway through the third quarter pushed the Tigers advantage to 27-14.
It was the same exact score as Napavine’s regular season game against Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, which the Titans ended up winning 28-27.
“We talked about that,” Fay said about the similarities between the two games. “We just said, ‘We’ve been in that situation and we have to finish.’ We were just unable to do it.”
The Bulldogs scored the game’s next 16 points, which started with a safety late in the third quarter.
Unlike their previous game against Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, however, the Tigers were able to briefly reclaim the lead, but it wasn’t enough.
Stanley finished with 82 rushing yards on 14 carries. He proved to be the only Napavine ball carrier to find success on the ground against the stingy Bulldogs defense, which held the Tigers to 85 total rushing yards on 32 carries.
Fagerness, who finished with 207 all-purpose yards, pulled down seven receptions for 153 yards and two scores, while Noah Lantz caught four passes for 41 yards and Purvis added three catches for 59 yards.
Van Wyck registered a game-high 12 tackles and forced a fumble for the Tigers
“Our expectations are to be here (playing in the Tacoma Dome) all the time,” Fay said. “We’ve been real fortunate to play in the Dome four times over the last eight years. We hope to be back here next year. We do have some holes to fill. We lose some great seniors.”