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Behind a suffocating defense, Camas sent a clear message in 28-14 league title-clinching win over rival Union: 5 takeaways

2019-11-01-at-10.44.22-PMcamas-union-football-10

CAMAS — Senior Blake Ascuitto tossed two touchdown passes in his first start at quarterback and the Camas defense forced turnover after turnover to defeat Union 28-14 in a Week 9 rivalry game at Doc Harris Stadium. 

Friday night’s win clinched the 4A Greater St. Helens League title for the Papermakers (9-0, 4-0), and the top seed heading into the regional playoff round. Union (5-4) will be the No. 3 seed.

Tyler Forner also had two first half touchdowns runs from one and four yards as the Papermakers built a 28-0 lead that lasted until the final minute of the third quarter.

Here are five takeaways:

Camas checks off its final box on its “Revenge Tour” 

Over the offseason, Camas created its slogan for the 2019 season predicated on righting all the wrongs of its 5-5 season from a year ago. 

This season would be its “Revenge Tour” and Papermakers would get a unique shot at facing the teams it lost two a year ago. So far, it has gone to script for the 9-0 Papermakers. 

Friday, they say, was the final check mark, beating the same defending 4A state champs that beat the Papermakers in the final game of the regular season a year ago.

“This was the last check mark,” Camas receiver Jackson Clemmer said. “This is not the end. We’ve still got that game 14 coming up. We’re going to be there.

“We’ve been working on this ever since the last game last year. The grind’s been going and going and now it’s paid off.”

In the battle of the backups, Ascuitto stood tall.

Perhaps the biggest question Camas needed to answer Friday night was, is it a 4A state title contender with its starting quarterback sidelined for the season?

Ascuitto offered a glimpse that the offense would be just fine. 

When starter Jake Blair suffered a broken collarbone in the third quarter at No. 9 Skyview last week, Ascuitto was tasked on a whim with helping the Papermakers (9-0, 4-0) hold on in a hectic final quarter and a half. 

This time around, he felt the week of preparation put him in right mindset entering the game. 

“I gotta get some confidence for sure, and I think this game helped me out a lot with confidence,” Ascuitto said. “I got to trust myself and trust my teammates. Having this game was great before playoffs.”

Alex Gehrmann started at quarterback for Union, and the Titans also put wideout Jake Bowen — who is a capable QB listed third on the depth chart — in the mix under center. Those two will lead the way for Union in the postseason after senior starter C.J. Jordan, a transfer from Clackamas, suffered a season-ending knee injury on a late hit in a win at Battle Ground in Week 8.

Camas put forth a title-contender defensive effort

On a night where the offense hummed under a first-time starting quarterback, Camas’ defense did all the talking. 

It didn’t just suffocate Union by holding it scoreless until the final minute of the third quarter, but it played well enough to hide any blemishes offensively.

“We could have put up 15 points and still won this game,” Ascuitto said. “One of the best defenses in the state if it’s not the best defense in the state.”

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Camas stopped Union on fourth and short on the first drive of the game to set up great field position for its first touchdown drive. The next drive, the Papermakers picked Union off. 

And even as Union strung together its most sound drive of the game down 28-0 in the third quarter, Camas forced a turnover on downs one fourth and short backed up against its own three-yard line. 

“We made a lot of big plays,” Camas coach Jon Eagle said. “That interception in end zone was huge. Any kind of turnover is huge.”

Had Union won, a prior coin flip would have made things interesting

Since a Union win on Friday night would have forced a three-way tie for all three 4A GSHL bids. 

So to preemptively break that tie, representatives from Union, Skyview and Camas flipped a coin earlier this week for who would get first place. Union won the coin toss, meaning a win over Camas would have leapfrogged the Titans two spots in the standings to nab the top seed for the second consecutive year.

But Eagle said he didn’t care to know the result of the coin flip, so athletic director Rory Oster was Camas’ representative. That means only one head coach at Doc Harris Stadium knew the extent of the stakes.

“I didn’t want to know unless we lost (Friday), so I didn’t care,” Eagle said. “We’re all about winning.”

Union head coach Rory Rosenbach knew the result, but running back Isaiah Jones said he didn’t tip off the players. 

Union’s late touchdowns made the score respectable — but don’t be fooled

A cursory glance at the final score would not properly reflect the way Friday night’s game went down. 

Camas’ defense gave Union fits, pounced on its mistakes and held the Titans scoreless until 59 seconds left in the third quarter. From there, Union began to not just move the ball, but also finish. 

Gehrmann hit Bowen over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans on the board, then as the Titans tried to get points on the board quick, Daron Ulrich caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Gehrmann with 1:56 left in the game. 

But between those two scores, Camas’ Mark Harmoto picked off Gehrmann in the endzone to thwart what would have made it a two score game with plenty of time to make things interesting. 

For Union, it came down to finishing

Jones ends his night after a game watching the film, and that will be no different this week, the running back said. 

But before he parses through the play-by-play of the game, Jones knows what Union needs to clean up. He came back to it again and again. If the Titans didn’t have turnovers, he said, they probably would have won the game.

While that’s certainly an unanswerable question, what’s not in question is the extent to which turnovers played a factor Friday night. Camas stopped Union on fourth and short three times and collected three interceptions, one in the endzone on a Union red zone trip.

Jones said his team needs to work on finishing at the goal line heading into the Titans’ regional game at 4A North Puget Sound League champ Mount Rainier (7-1, 4-0).

“1-0 ever week,” Jones said. “We’ve got to learn from this, take this on the chin and get back to work Monday."

Game highlights

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Andy Buhler is a reporter for Scorebook Live Washington. Hear him weekly on the Scorebook Live Today podcast; Twitter: @AndyBuhler; email at andy@scorebooklive.com.