In a game that is likely to go down as one of the best in Washington state championship game history, the Chiawana Riverhawks will be remembered for their never-say-die attitude.
The Riverhawks scored 14 points in 55 seconds to complete an unbelievable rally to stun Camas 27-26 on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
“Words can’t explain what just happened,” Alex Weber said. “We’ve worked so hard together, we’re like brothers. There is no better feeling in the world.”
Blake Bishop caught a pass from Joey Zamora as time expired to set off a wild celebration in the Dome as Chiawana won the first team state title in school history.
“It wasn’t even supposed to go to me,” Bishop said. “When Joey rolled out, I ran to the corner. It’s undescribable. Everything I’ve wanted since I was a little kid. We wanted this since Day 1.”
Matt Winn then stepped up and nailed the extra-point to give the Riverhawks the unlikely victory.
“When I saw it go through, oh my God, that is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Winn said.
The title is the fourth for head coach Steve Graff, who won three with Pasco High, but this was surely the most dramatic.
“You can’t explain it,” he said. “We just never quit. I wasn’t sure there for awhile myself, but those kids kept playing. Funny stuff happens in games like this.”
Trailing 26-13 with 55 seconds left, Zamora connected with Dre Dorton on a 57-yard pass to pull within 27-20.
The touchdown initially seemed like a nice stat padder, but then the unthinkable happened.
Winn kicked a perfect onside kick. It bounced off a Camas player’s helmet and went high in the air. Receiver Deion Singleton then climbed the ladder and grabbed it.
“When I kicked it and saw it bounce up in the air, I knew my guys were going to get it,” Winn said, “because my guys are always there for me. They are always there for me.”
The Riverhawks still had to go 44 yards in 50 seconds, though.
On first down, Zamora threw a pass over the middle that went through the hands of a defender and into the open arms of Bishop for a 25-yard gain.
“I felt like I needed to make a play because I dropped a long third-down play earlier,” Bishop said. “I felt like I was obligated to make a play.”
After an incomplete pass, Zamora threw to Dorton in the end zone, but he was pushed out of bounds and pass interference was called.
That set up third-and-1 at the 9, and Zamora scrambled for the first down to the 4.
After a spike to stop the clock with seven seconds left, Zamora rolled right under heavy pressure and found Bishop standing by himself in the corner of the end zone.
“You can’t describe what just happened,” Chiawana’s Clifton Lozano said. “The football gods blessed us. Just don’t give up and that is what we did. And it paid off.”
The winning touchdown was designed to be a scramble play to try and get as many people open as possible. And it worked, as Bishop – an unheralded wide receiver – made the big play.
“They did an amazing job of getting open in the back of the end zone,” Zamora said. “I (thought) just make sure you don’t screw this (pass) up.
“I don’t know what to say. We never quit. It feels amazing.”
In the first half, it looked as though Chiawana would run away with the game. The Riverhawks dominated Camas, holding the Papermakers to just 40 yards of offense in the first half. Chiawana led 13-7 at the break thanks to a 6-yard touchdown run by Lozano and a 21-yard TD pass from Zamora to Lozano.
But in the third quarter, Camas flipped the script and set up the wild finish.
The Papermakers scored 20 points in the third quarter, gaining a whopping 197 yards in the 12 minutes. Camas scored touchdowns on 74-yard and 33-yard passes and a 44-yard run, as its big-play offense finally got going.
“Credit to them, we came out of the half a little arrogant and they put it to us,” Weber said. “But we stuck together as a team and that is what we pride ourselves on.”
They certainly did that, causing a wild scene that had a huge crowd at the Dome going crazy on one side, while the Camas players collapsed to the turf, stunned at the turn of events.
“You know, a couple of guys started hanging their heads,” Kayden Maughan said. “I said, ‘let’s do something wild. Let’s do something miraculous.’ You can ask these guys, they were probably annoyed by it. I said, ‘Never say die’ probably a million times on the sideline. Some guys said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ But some guys bought into it.
“The hard work paid off.”
Zamora finished 17-for-36 for 301 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Lozano had 164 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown, while Dorton had four receptions for 91 yards and a score.
Blake Bishop had just two catches for 28 yards, though every one of those was needed.
“It’s fantastic. Amazing. Just like a dream that just blew out of my mind,” defensive lineman Juan Noyola said.