TUMWATER — Before it's 2B state semifinal matchup against No. 3 Okanogan, the No. 2 Napavine Tigers knew the history behind this game. In back-to-back years, not too long ago, the Tigers fell to the Bulldogs on this same stage.
After a 42-10 win to vault them into the state championship game Saturday over those same Bulldogs, the Tigers are celebrating.
“It’s a good thing to get the monkey off the back,” Tigers coach Josh Fay said.
It’s Napavine’s first state title appearance since 2018, and the Tigers can win their first title since 2016.
Though the box score would say it was a blowout, it was far from a sure thing at halftime. The Tigers roared out to a 14-0 lead, but after back-to-back strong drives to end the second quarter, Okanogan narrowed the gap to just four points and a 14-10 halftime deficit. It’s the closest halftime margin for the Tigers all season.
Then the Tigers rolled off 28 consecutive points, with a quick score to open the half and then a Glade Shannon pick-six effectively punching their state title ticket in the third quarter.
“The coaches made a few adjustments on our formations and where we needed to slide and roll,” senior tailback Gavin Parker said. “We still had that momentum, we never really lost it, we won’t put our heads down. We wanted to come out in the second half and start it strong.”
So, as has been predicted for much of the season, the No. 2 Tigers will finally face off against Central 2B League rival Kalama in the state championship next Saturday. Goliath versus Goliath. Juggernaut against juggernaut.
Much like the No. 1 Chinooks, the Tigers win Saturday was their 12th straight by double-digits. Though Napavine was tested in the first half against the Bulldogs, it quickly turned into a blowout. The Tigers just did the same thing they’ve done all year.
“Everyone played together,” Parker said. “Everyone has bought into this program and has done their job every single play.”
Parker made sure to also give thanks to the Tigers offensive line, perhaps the strongest position group in the state this season. Led by USC-commit Keith Olson, Napavine’s run game certainly wouldn’t be this strong without the boys up front.
“They’re the ones that start every play,” Parker said. “They bring the momentum for us. They push guys off the line and don’t get enough credit.”
As for the game next week, well, Napavine is going to enjoy tonight first. But you can be sure early Sunday morning, Fay and his staff will be hard at work figuring out the undefeated Chinooks.
“We’re going to enjoy the heck out of this tonight, get back to work tomorrow,” Fay said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to contain Jackson Esary and the three or four horsemen that run with him. It’s going to be a different game, we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”