Tigers blow past Panthers, into ninth straight State semifinal


TENINO — The Napavine machine just kept rolling faster and faster Saturday in Stone City, turning in one of its most dominant offensive performances yet in a 43-14 win over River View in the quarterfinals of the 2B state tournament.

“We had a great first half,” head coach Josh Fay said. “Put ourselves in a couple bad spots early in the first quarter, but I liked the way our defense responded. And then the offense got going, and the rest is history.”

The Tigers led 36-0 at halftime, before Cayle Kelly returned the kickoff to start the second half back to the edge of the red zone, and three Cael Stanley runs got Napavine back into the end zone, triggering the running clock and ending the starters’ night.

In just over two quarters of work, the Tigers’ first team offense gained 384 yards on just 26 plays, averaging 14.8 yards per pop.

Ashton Demarest finished his evening 10 for 12 for 209 yards; all 10 of his completions gained 12 yards or more. He also ran for 38 yards, logging two rushing touchdowns to go along with two passing scores.

“I thought he looked good,” Fay said. “He didn’t have a lot of opportunities because we didn’t run that many plays in the first half.”

Conner Holmes and Collin Shieldsboth had 61 receiving yards to share the team lead, Holmes on five catches and Shields on two, one of which was a 47-yard touchdown over the top. James Grose caught the first touchdown of the night on a 12-yard fade, and racked up 56 yards.

Holmes also scored on a 15-yard jet sweep. 

“We spread it around,” Fay said. “A lot of guys carried the love for us tonight, which is what makes us so special.”

The only thing that slowed the Napavine offense down at all were the Tigers themselves, who gave the ball away on a fumbled punt return and committed six offensive penalties in the first half to consistently get behind the sticks.

But when the fumble gave the Panthers the ball inside the red zone, the defense — which allowed just 74 yards while the starters were in — forced a turnover on downs. And while the the offense gave itself extra yards to gain, it had no problems gaining them. The Tigers faced just two third downs in the entire first half — and scored touchdowns on both.

“The playbook is wide open,” Fay said. “Some of it was on inside runs, some was on outside runs, some was pass plays.”

Napavine moves on to the state semifinals for the ninth straight postseason, with rival Onalaska standing between it and a trip to Husky Stadium. The Tigers beat the Loggers 58-14 back on Sept. 8.