TACOMA — Kalama coach Sean McDonald said this team would be different. Well, how’s this for different?
With the Chinooks’ 34-25 win over Napavine in the Class 2B State Championship on Friday at the Tacoma Dome, Kalama became the first local football team to have back-to-back state titles since the WIAA started crowning champions in 1973.
“Indescribable,” Kalama senior quarterback Alex Dyer said. “It’s probably the best feeling you can get in high school sports. You get one championship — most people maybe get one, usually never back to back. So it’s about as good as it gets.” Different at the start of the season for McDonald meant that the team would have to come together as a family. From offseason weight room, it was clear they had a potential championship-winning recipe in the oven.
Everyone would have to play their part. On Friday, that was never more true.
“Everyone bought in,” Dyer said. “We grinded it out. We came in and thought we were hot stuff. We thought because we were state champs, everybody was going to roll over for us. It wasn’t like that. We got smacked in the mouth, but we got back to work. We just kept working, and that’s how you get here.”
Dyer was 19 of 32 for 317 yards and three touchdowns. He delivered multiple passes to Randall Keithley (five catches for 115 yards), Grant Vandenberg (three for 47), Max Ross (5 for 79), Brennon Vance (three for 52) and Jackson Esary (three for 24).
“I love playing with Dyer,” Keithley said. “Great arm, great accuracy, great team leader.”
Then Vance used his legs to dash for 123 yards on five carries, including a 77-yard touchdown on a sweep route that had the junior bottled up before he squirted out to space to break the game open at 20-7 in the second quarter.
“Like I said, once we get momentum, we don’t stop,” Vance said. “I’ve said that so many times.”
It followed a quick start for the Chinooks, in which they went 67 yards in seven plays before Bradey O’Neil bowled his way in for a 7-yard opening score and 7-0 lead. After a Napavine response, Dyer found Ross for a 29-yard score to make it 14-7. The play followed a controversial first-down spot on fourth and short, kicking off what was a dominant day for the Chinooks’ offense on third and fourth down. They combined to go 10 of 17 on the two downs on the day.
“We talked about how much this would mean to the community and to the team to do something that hadn’t been done before,” McDonald said. “It just shows that this senior class bought in to my program and did the things we all believed in.”
Napavine would capitalize on a muffed Chinook punt to make the game 20-13 at the break.
The Chinooks put the game away quickly in the third quarter, by scoring on its first two possessions — Vance catching an out route and diving in for a 21-yard score and Ross hauling in a perfect toss from Dyer for a 25-yard touchdown. By the end of third, it was 34-13.
“Alex threw a couple great balls, and I was wide open,” Ross siad. “We’ve been playing catch since the first grade, so we’re good to go.”
A sloppy fourth quarter gave Napavine hopes, as Jared McCollum beat the Chinooks deep for a 61-yard score and Cade Evander caught a 3-yard pass from Dawson Stanley with 38 seconds left. The two-point conversion was stuffed, though, and so were the Tigers’ hopes of a comeback.
“They just played tough,” McDonald said. “They did the gameplan. We said we weren’t going to chase (Stanley); we were going to stay at home, and we did that. He was getting corralled in there.”
Kalama racked up nearly 500 yards of offense, and limited the Tigers to 266. They limited Stanley to 100 yards running on 20 carries, and he went just 9 of 26 passing. Vandenberg coming down with an interception on a Stanley pass.
Sutton Moon led the team with six tackles and Parker Wood chipped in 5 1/2, including three for a loss.
“It was extra special,” Vandenberg said. “It’s awesome knowing everybody on the field can make plays.”
And as the Chinooks raised the trophy yet again — this time in a remodeled Tacoma Dome — it provided validation to a team that set its sights higher than anyone expected. Fourteen games and hundreds of hours of practice and workouts later, the Chinooks went down in the record books.
“This team’s been great. We lost a whole bunch of key players form the 2017 championship team,” Wood said. “But we filled spots, and everyone worked hard all year. Now look at us. We’re winning state championships again.”
Kalama 34, Napavine 25
Kalama 14 6 14 0 34
Napavine 7 6 0 12 25
K — Bradey O’Neil 5 run (Logan Jones kick)
N — Laythan Demarest 47 pass from Dawson Stanley (Demarest kick)
K — Max Ross 29 pass from Alex Dyer (Jones kick)
K — Brennon Vance 77 run (kick fail)
N — Ben Woodrum 38 pass from Stanley (run fail)
K — Vance 21 pass from Dyer (kick fail)
K — Ross 25 pass from Dyer (Dyer run)
N — Jared McCollum 61 pass from Stanley (kick fail)
N — Cade Evander 3 pass from Stanley (run fail)
RUSHING — K: Brennon Vance 5-123, Bradey O’Neil 6-25, Eli Haynes 7-17, Alex Dyer 9-21, Bradey Vance 3-9, Randall Keithley 2-4 N: Dawson Stanley 20-100, Laythan Demarest 1-7, Seth Butler 1-0.
PASSING — K: Alex Dyer 19-32-2-317 N: Dawson Stanley 9-26-1-173.
RECEIVING — K: Randall Keithley 5-115, Max Ross 5-79, Brennon Vance 3-52, Grant Vandenberg 3-47, Jackson Esary 2-24 N: Seth Butler 3-4, Laythan Demarest 2-53, Ben Woodrum 2-52, Jared McCollum 1-61, Cade EVander 1-3.