Playing just a slight distance from the friendly confines of Tiger Field, the 2B No. 1 Napavine football team played in a different sort of Tiger Stadium up North in Centralia, and the results weren’t all that different than any game to this point in the season.
The Tigers had to do a bit of schedule reshuffling after Forks forfeited the rest of its season this week, and played 1A Cascade Christian in their regular season finale, and won their ninth-straight running-clock victory of the year, 61-14, Saturday afternoon.
Napavine opened the game with a 94-yard kick return for a score by Max O’Neill, scored its next touchdown on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ashton Demarest to Karsen Denault, and its third on a 40-yard pick-six from James Grose, earning a score in all three phases in just the first quarter alone.
From there, the game didn’t get much closer, as the Tigers scored at least twice in each quarter after the first.
“It was a good test for us,” Tigers coach Josh Fay said. “Our rotation up front and with our skill guys is pretty good. We didn’t drop off too much, we were pretty consistent across the board.”
Demarest had a team-high 176 rushing yards, another 94 passing yards, and five total touchdowns to lead the Tigers from the quarterback spot. Lead back Cael Stanley added 107 yards, helping Napavine rush for 318 total yards in the win.
Defensively, the Tigers front controlled the trenches all game long, holding the Cougars to just 48 rushing yards and starting to get pressure on Cascade QB Cade Sando after a couple of chunk plays resulted in scores in the first half.
“Those guys in the back end had to cover a lot, Cascade does a really nice job throwing the ball, they moved the ball really well a few times on us but at the end of the day we made some really nice plays,” Fay said. “It was hard for the D-line to get going because they get rid of it quick, but those guys kept grinding and applied pressure a few times.”
Those pressures led to three interceptions, along with a few adjustments to mix up coverage, with two of those picks going for touchdowns.
Denault had two interceptions, and caught a touchdown pass in the win, as well.
But as always, it started up front for Napavine, which controlled the pace of the game throughout, despite some lapses in the secondary.
“Jack (Nelson), Deacon (Parker), Gabe (Harris), Ashton (Wirt) and Jose (Gaona) to start the game were pretty dominant up there moving guys,” Fay said. “Then they started bringing more guys, but they did a good job picking up and being where we want them to be.”
Though the game was meaningless for standing purposes, as the Tigers had already wrapped up league play and knew they were going to play Wahkiakum at home next Thursday with a trip to state on the line, Napavine wanted to send yet another message in a dominant win.
The unbeaten Tigers won’t change much as future weeks become loser-go-home games, starting Thursday.
“Everything we do, from Week 1 to wherever we finish is pretty standard,” Fay said. “I think the urgency increases because it’s do-or-die, there’s no tomorrow if you don’t win today. That element is there, and these guys are excited for that, but as far as gameplan and scouting reports, it's going to be the same.”