Bothell had been there before, overcoming deficits and flipping games in its favor.
The Cougars would have to give it another go against Camas in the biggest contest of the season, the 4A state football final.
Down 21-0 against the undefeated Papermakers from Vancouver, Bothell cranked up its offensive machine and soon made it a 21-14 game with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
However, the comeback magic ran out on the Cougars as Camas held strong and notched a 35-14 victory on Saturday at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma to complete a 14-0 season with a Gridiron Classic crown. Bothell’s season ends with an 11-3 record.
“Right at the beginning of the second half, we really cleaned our game up a lot. Offense, we started converting more and more, and defense held them for a little bit,” said Bothell quarterback Andrew Sirmon. “We never quit a game this year. We had a lot of dogfights this year and they were just a really good team.”
Cougar fullback/linebacker Colin Fisherkeller said they never count themselves out, keeping their heads high and playing tough until the final zero hits the scoreboard. The players, coaches and fans all share that same mindset, he added.
“I think we had to adjust our physicality a little bit. I think we started off a little soft and underestimated them,” Fisherkeller said. “I think after that, we came out as physical as we could be. Playing for each other has just been one thing that keeps us together and keeps us strong.”
Camas’ powerhouse running back Jacques Badolato-Birdsell scored three touchdowns on runs of 6, 48 and 3 yards, Tyler Forner tallied on a 1-yard run and 6-foot-6 wide receiver Jackson Clemmer hauled in a 28-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone to give the Papermakers a 28-14 lead with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
Bothell’s Blake Bickhaus caught Sirmon’s first touchdown pass of the game on a 6-yarder with 56 seconds remaining in the first half to make it a 21-7 game. Jordyn Turner had catches of 19, 11 and 18 yards and Evan Berry caught a 13-yarder on the 81-yard scoring drive.
Turner also scored on a 39-yard touchdown reception from Sirmon. Cougar Luke Olsen’s 25-yard kickoff return to start the second half got his team rolling on that scoring drive, which featured runs from Christian Galvan — including a 14-yarder — a 15-yard Berry catch and a 9-yard Sirmon run. Bothell covered 75 yards on the drive.
On defense for Bothell, Berry had an interception and Fisherkeller, Tala Tevaga, Brendan Barry, Ryan Metz and Marcus Heffernan made key plays to keep the Cougars in the game.
Bothell head coach Tom Bainter echoed Sirmon and Fisherkeller’s comments about never giving up, noting that the Cougars overcame some tough spots in the first half and stepped up their tackling and offensive execution in the second half.
“Tip your hat to (Camas), that’s a good football team. They’re big and physical and athletic and well-coached,” he said. “It’s hard to emulate their size and speed in practice — we don’t have a scout team like that. There’s that adjustment, when you go out, they’re faster than I thought, they’re bigger than I thought. Then your angles change a little bit and then you do things. It takes a while to do that.”
As he prepared to leave the locker room after a lengthy, emotional postgame gathering with his teammates and coaches, Fisherkeller discussed the team’s journey this season.
“This is a family, this is a brotherhood, we’ve been going at it since the third grade together,” he said. “We’ve just been going through so much, the workouts and just everything, just working our butts off for each other. I think that’s what makes this program so special is everything’s for each other.”
Bainter is proud of his players and the leadership skills they displayed all season.