CENTRALIA — Once could have been an aberration. Twice looks a lot more like the truth.
Kalama’s second dance with Onalaska went much the same way as the first one did. But while the first affair did its job to assert the Chinooks as the kings of the hill in their league, this 46-30 handling of the Loggers meant so much more, vaulting Kalama into the 2B State title game for the fourth straight postseason.
But while the regular-season matchup was largely devoid of any extracurricular activity, Saturday’s meeting was much more what fans expected from a Kalama vs. Onalaska game with 14 penalties of the 15-yard variety, multiple tussles, and a marked lack of postgame handshakes after it was all over.
“What did you expect?” said Kalama quarterback Jackson Esary after the game, with blood leaking from an open cut in his cheek. “We saw it coming from warm-ups.”
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That chippiness forced Esary out of the game earlier than expected; the Loggers hit him high and late on back-to-back plays late in the third which were called for penalties, then knocked him hard on a 27-yard run later in the drive, and again on a broken play the next snap. He came back in for one play to throw on fourth down, and left the game for good at the end of the third quarter with his team up 40-16, suffering from a stinger to his collarbone and the cut below his eye.
Because of that, it fell to Andrew Schlangen to run the Kalama offense, and the freshman racked up 25 yards and a touchdown in the final quarter.
And while the antics before, after, and in between plays went as expected, so too did Onalaska’s gameplan.
On the heels of the 52-point drubbing the Chinooks handed them in October, the Loggers largely came out doing the same thing they’ve always done, packing 11 players within the hashmarks on offense to pound opponents into submission.
But for the second straight time, Kalama’s defensive front didn’t bend, and with penalties pushing Onalaska behind the chains nearly every drive early, the Loggers found themselves in precisely the situation their gameplan isn’t equipped to deal with.
“We kind of had a gameplan going in, we thought they were going to go wider splits and do the sweep game a little bit more on us,” Kalama coach Sean McDonald said. “I think they kind of did, but there were not many in-game changes (for us). We just stuck with what we came into the game doing, and I think that paid off.”
Onalaska finished with 287 rushing yards on 55 carries, but 172 of those came in the second half — and the bulk of those came in the fourth quarter when Esary wasn’t on the field. In the first half, the Loggers got 33 yards on a wild play thanks to a lucky bounce on a fumble, and 55 more in one go from Kolby Mozingo. Other than that, Kalama held the Onalaska to just 1-yard per carry to go into the break up 32-8.
“You’ve just got to be physical,” Esary said. “My sophomore year, we got out-physicaled. Last year, we got out-physicaled. You’ve just got to be physical up front. If you’re physical, you’re going to win the game against a team like this.”
Meanwhile, the Loggers went to the same defense that they’ve run in the past against Esary and the high-powered Kalama offense, dropping eight and rushing three. But for the second straight game, that strategy failed when the Chinook wideouts simply outran the Logger defensive backs over the top.
It started in Kalama’s first drive, when Jack Doerty beat a linebacker out of the slot for a 68-yard pitch and catch that got down to the 2-yard line; Esary punched it in a play later.
On the next drive, it was the same thing, with Esary taking it himself for a 58-yard touchdown run. After a quarter, Onalaska had run 22 plays to Kalama’s six, and the Chinooks led 14-0.
The Chinooks went back to the air to start the second quarter, with Nate Meyer coming down with 49- and 56-yard touchdowns on balls over the top.
“It’s just fast-paced, that’s what we like to do,” Meyer said. “Just go, go, go, go. No slowing down.”
Meyer finished the afternoon with a team-high five catches for 152 yards. Doerty went for 85 yards on three receptions, and Jaxxon Truesdell added a short touchdown reception to cap Kalama’s final drive of the first half.
Esary went 12-for-17 for 260 yards and three touchdowns in his three quarters of action. He also ran the ball nine times for 134 yards, and found the end zone three times on the ground.
“He can do whatever he wants,” McDonald said. “He can run it, he can throw it. I wish he’d take less hits, but anytime you have a player like that, you just let him take over the game.”
Now, Kalama finds itself four quarters from its third State title in the past four postseasons. The Chinooks will take the field one last time at Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood next Saturday at 4 p.m. in the 2B championship game. There, they’ll get the collision course that’s been destined since the season first kicked off: a date with undefeated No. 2 Napavine, which throttled No. 3 Okanogan up the freeway in Tumwater on Saturday.