TACOMA — They felt amazing, incredible. Some couldn’t find words for the elation.
Kalama’s football team had troubles starting fast all year. It nearly derailed the Chinooks title hopes early in the postseason.
in Saturday’s 2B State Championship, the Chinooks’ break out of the gates was anything but slow. Kalama picked up two first-quarter touchdown passes, and then had to rally late for their first state title in 19 years.
Elijah Haynes rumbled in for a 16-yard score, Logan Jones kicked the game-winning extra-point and Tucker Wetmore’s interception late in the fourth quarter sealed the 28-27 win over Liberty (Spangle) on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Jacob Herz got the ball rolling with a touchdown catch on a short swing play the senior converted by diving for the pylon just four minutes after the Chinooks kicked off.
Four minutes later, quarterback Alex Dyer found Wetmore deep down the sideline and tacked another score onto the lead, and the Chinooks were off and running, up 14-0.
“Yeah that was big. That touchdown made us all feel it,” Wetmore said. “We’re just so happy. I don’t even know what to say. I just feel great.”
Kalama was rolling— they looked close to unstoppable— but then Markus Rocha went down with an ankle injury and played injured the rest of the way.
Missing the guy coach Sean McDonald considers the team’s best defensive lineman had far-reaching effect. Liberty was able to finally run the ball with success, which led to a pair of second-quarter rushing touchdowns off long, plodding drives.
“That running back (James Heer), man, he’s a bruiser,” McDonald said. “(Rocha) is huge on the front line. He’s always pushing people around and making plays. He did such an awesome job tonight. He missed a couple plays, but he came back and battled through that pain. I’m really proud of him.”
Liberty failed a two-point try and kicked an extra point on their two scores, as the Chinooks headed to the lockers up 14-13, a title hanging in the balance.
“Them having those big guys on the line, guys who are 6-foot-7, 280, when you have guys who can compete with that, you come in and smack them in the mouth,” senior lineman KC Larranaga said. “It was a battle all four quarters. … It wears on you.”
Liberty took its first lead of the game on a 4-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Ahead 19-14, Wetmore made the play of the game when Dyer, who finished 12-25 for 188 yards and three touchdowns, threw a pass into the Lancers’ defense. The throw was batted in the air and Wetmore cut back across the field to snag it before it hit the ground.
He jaunted the 37 yards into the end zone and Kalama re-took a 21-19 lead. Wetmore finished the season with 19 receiving touchdowns, and two for the day on five catches for 97 yards.
“Tuck, you know, he always comes up big,” McDonald said.
After Liberty marched down the field and converted three fourth downs to take a 27-21 lead, the Chinooks had little more than 5 minutes left to seal their title dreams. Dyer orchestrated an eight-play, 70-yard drive capped by Elijah Haynes’ 16-yard scamper and Jones nailed the kick to make it 28-27 with 2:31 to go.
Needing one more stop, it was none other than Wetmore who came up big. The senior intercepted a pass near the middle of the field, running it back 15 yards as the Chinooks’ sideline jumped for joy.
“I just saw the ball and man,” Wetmore said, “that was the game.”
Senior linebacker Corbyn Byrnes had 5.5 tackles for the day, while Colby Hutchison finished with 10.5. The Chinooks held Liberty to 301 total offensive yards, while totaling 363 of their own.
“We just had to dig deep and play how we play football,” Byrnes said. “That was our biggest key. Play hard, and we’ll win. We did, and we won.”
Minutes later, the Chinooks were raising their first state football title trophy since 1998.
“I just can’t even describe how I feel right now,” Wetmore said. “It’s just amazing.”
Confident throughout its 14-0 season, the Chinooks always had a title in mind. They just had to play the way they knew how, Larranaga said.
“That’s what we did.”