The magic ran out for the Mount Si Wildcats (10-3) in a 35-14 loss to the Camas Papermakers (13-0) in a 4A state semifinal game on Nov. 30 in Vancouver.
Mount Si head coach Charlie Kinnune has been at the helm of the Wildcats football program since 1992, but he said this postseason run stands out.
“We just caught lightning in a bottle here at the end,” Kinnune said. “It was really, really awesome. This was the most improbable November that I’ve been a part of.”
The Wildcats defeated three tough opponents to make it to the semifinals in Monroe, Chiawana and Lake Stevens before facing the Papermakers.
The No. 11-seeded Wildcats got off to a good start, but Camas running back Jacques Badolato-Birdsell’s four touchdown runs sent the No. 2 Papermakers into the 4A state championship game.
The loss not only brought an end to the Mount Si football season, but also meant the final high school football games for 12 seniors. One of those seniors, wide receiver Brayden Holt, said the program has meant the world to him for the last four years.
“Reflecting on my whole senior year, I couldn’t ask for a better season. We made history,” Holt said about reaching the first 4A state semifinal since Mount Si moved up from 3A. “Best of luck to Camas in the state championship, they’re a great team.”
The Wildcats got off to a dream start, putting together a meticulous opening drive that was capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run from junior running back Cole Norah to put them up 7-0 with 8:37 left in the first quarter. The Papermakers had an immediate answer, scoring on their first offensive snap of the game, an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Ascuitto to a wide-open Jackson Clemmer to make it 7-7.
After the Wildcats offense went three-and-out on its next drive, the Papermakers took their first lead of the game courtesy of a 2-yard touchdown run from Badolato-Birdsell to give them a 14-7 lead with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Camas extended its lead to 21-7 early in the second quarter with another touchdown run from Badolato-Birdsell, this time from 8 yards out.
After Mount Si linebacker Caleb Dalgleish intercepted a Camas pass late in the second quarter, Holt found the end zone with a 25-yard run on a double-reverse to make it a 21-14 game at halftime.
On their opening drive of the second half, Badolato-Birdsell scored from 5 yards out to put the Papermakers ahead 28-14 with 7:52 in the third quarter.
In the second half, the Papermakers’ running game took control of the game and more importantly, the clock. The Papermakers capped off the scoring with a soul-crushing 8:33 long drive that ended in another Badolato-Birdsell touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, putting an exclamation point on their 35-14 victory over the Wildcats.
“They were able to play defense with their offense and just play keep away,” Kinnune said.
On defense, Camas held Mount Si quarterback Clay Millen to 161 yards passing. Kinnune said the Papermakers’ defense didn’t provide many opportunities for the Wildcats’ offense.
“That’s a really good defense,” Kinnune said. “They were able to drop eight into coverage for most of the night. You could see Clay was trying to buy time and our offensive line was buying him time, but we couldn’t find any cracks.”
The Wildcats will lose talented players to graduation, but there is plenty of reason for optimism with returning talent, including Millen, Norah and wide receiver Aidan Dougherty.
“We’ll be back,” Kinnune said.