At every step of the way, Kalama’s 2B State Championship football team oozed confidence.
After a Week 2 overtime win against Napavine, the Chinooks said a state title was in reach. Turns out they were right.
That confidence, that never stepped over the line into egotistical or braggadocious, ended up being the team’s saving grace as the school brought home its second team state championship in the past 13 months (the volleyball team won the 2B title last fall). They topped Liberty (Spangle) 28-27 on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome to secure the hardware.
The Chinooks fell behind 12-0 against Adna in the first round of the state playoffs. They never worried. When the Pirates were just four yards away from a game-winning score, there still was no panic. Corbyn Byrnes picked up a huge tackle, limited Adna to a field goal and then Alex Dyer found Max Ross for a go-ahead score, and Jacob Herz sealed things with an interception. The Chinooks’ dreams avoided being dashed.
Kalama fell behind again in the state semifinals to Napavine, and a late first-half touchdown off one of Dyer’s few mistakes on the season, made it 14-13 at the half. Still no reason to worry. Herz caught a 94-yard touchdown and the Chinooks’ defense wore down the Tigers in the 20-13 win. Kalama was in a state-title game for the first time since 1999.
And again in Saturday’s championship game, the Chinooks found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. After taking a 14-0 lead, three consecutive Liberty scores made it 19-14. Wetmore’s unbelievable 37-yard touchdown haul off a tipped pass didn’t swing the momentum enough, as Liberty countered with a touchdown drive of its own, and took a 27-21 lead with 5:30 to go.
Think it was time to hit the panic button? Think again.
Byrnes preached how confident he was on the eve of the state championship. Herz echoed it to his team again before they took the field Saturday afternoon. And third-year coach Sean McDonald made sure his team knew he had the same confidence in them as they did in themselves.
“Out of all these teams here (at the Tacoma Dome) today, I would rather have you guys,” McDonald said. “Because you guys are my guys.”
And who wouldn’t want this bunch? Never was there any sign of doubt on the Kalama sideline.
Down 27-21 with 5:30 to go? Just go score a touchdown and win the game.
They never missed a package substitution — switching defenses and offenses seamlessly throughout the evening. They never blew a big assignment. They just “played the way we know how” and won the game.
Calm and composed as ever, Dyer — in charge of the hurry-up offense on the final drive — listened to his big men up front.
“They told me we could run behind them,” Dyer said. “And I believed in those guys up front.”
Dyer let the game be won in the trenches, handed it off to his running back on four of the eight plays on the 70-yard drive, and was more than comfortable watching a sophomore — running back Elijah Haynes — waltz into the end zone for the game-winning score, after Logan Jones’ made extra point. 28-27. Game over.
But if you spent any time on the Kalama sidelines this season, they knew it was game over before it ever began.