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LAKEWOOD - The Kalama Chinooks are back on top.

The Chinooks defeated Napavine, 16-14, on Saturday to win the Class 2B state championship game at Harry E. Lang Stadium.

Kalama quarterback Jackson Esary ran in a 3-yard touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion with 2:53 remaining in the game to put the Chinooks on top for good.

Max Cox then intercepted his third pass of the evening to sew up the victory after Napavine had crossed midfield.

It is the third 2B title in the past five years for Kalama, which also won in 2017 and 2018. The Chinooks defeated the Tigers in the 2018 title game.

Napavine controlled the game throughout, before a safety started Kalama's rally in the fourth quarter.

Esary was 18-for-26 for 216 yards and a touchdown in the win. He also rushed for 13 yards and a score. Nate Meyer had six receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Bradey O’Neill had four catches for 59 yards.

Ashton Demarest was 7-for-13 for 97 yards and a touchdown and rushed 15 times for 106 yards in the loss. Glade Shannon had two receptions for 22 yards and a nice touchdown catch on a fourth-down play.

Here are three observations from the Kalama-Napavine game:


Esary only threw one pass in practice this week.

The dual-threat quarterback sprained the acromioclavicular (AC) joint in his throwing shoulder during the semifinal win against Onalaska a week ago.

It hurt so much he couldn’t lift his arm high enough to put the keys in his car’s ignition.

After a tentative start to Saturday’s game, though, Esary gutted through the pain to deliver his team to victory.

"I decided halfway through the first quarter that I was going to fight through it and win this game," he said. "We have been thinking about this game since first grade and we weren’t going to let this slip away."

Partly because of his bad shoulder. and partly because of Napavine’s stellar defense - it looked as if the Chinooks might not win another title.

Esary was sacked six times, threw an interception and fumbled the ball away.

But he didn’t let that get him down and instead used his feet to escape pressure all night, especially on the team’s two scoring drives.

"He’s tough as nails,: Kalama coach Sean McDonald said. "He is a dude who doesn’t want to lose and isn’t going to quit until it’s done."

Trailing 14-8 with 5:33 remaining, he scrambled under immense pressure and found Bradey O’Neil wide open 30 yards downfield. It set up first-and-goal at the 3.

"I told coach to give me the ball," Esary said. "And he did. Twice."

Esary scored on a power run up the middle and then added the two-point conversion by bouncing it to the left side.

Trailing 7-0 late in the first half, Esary escaped four tackles and completed a pass falling out of bounds to keep the drive alive. After he was sacked on the next play, he then broke three tackles while running 15 yards for a first down on a fourth-down play with 16 seconds remaining.

He then completed a 21-yard pass for a touchdown.

All of that while playing with an injury that sent pain shooting down his arm every time he threw a pass, delivered a hit on defense or was hit by a defender.

"He’s just a fighter," senior Max Cox said. "He is willing to fight to the end to get the win. Whatever it takes."


With a dual-threat quarterback as good as Esary, it is easy to overlook the Kalama defense.

On Saturday, though, it was what kept the Chinooks in the game long enough for Esary to lead the offense to the end zone.

Cox intercepted three passes, Preston Armstrong had a key tackle in the end zone for a safety and the Chinooks hung tough throughout.

"We’re a bend-not-break defense that has one game plan that we don’t usually change much," McDonald said. "It was really just our guys playing tough across the board."

The safety turned the game.

Napavine had just stuffed Kalama four times inside the 5-yard line to get the ball back, leading 14-6 with 5:43 to go.

On the first play, though, a jet-sweep handoff to the left side was stuffed by Armstrong before the goal line.

Suddenly, the Chinooks had the momentum and got the ball back.

"We executed very well," Cox said. "We stood our ground, were really physical and made the plays."

Cox came into the game with four interceptions on the season, before grabbing three in the title game.

His first ended a Napavine drive in the end zone, his second came on a deep ball on the first series of the second half and his third ended the final Napavine scoring threat.

"I stay in my zone and if I see the ball in the air, I’m going to go get it every time," Cox said. "I want to make a play for our team."


Napavine knew coming into Saturday’s game it would have to mix up coverages and looks to be able to slow down Esary and the high-powered Chinooks.

The Tigers did just that, controlling the game until the final five minutes.

"We have a lot of athletes up front, probably more than they have seen, and I thought our guys did a good job," Napavine coach Josh Fay said. "Our coverage was pretty good and it forced (Esary) to have to extend plays."

The Tigers forced two turnovers and recorded six sacks in the loss, giving Esary everything he wanted throughout the game.

"Their D-Line wasn’t playing one-on-one," Esary said of Napavine. "They were crossing each other and hiding things and running a mix of Cover 1 and Cover 4. They did a really good job of camouflaging how they were going to blitz.

"That was the best defense we’ve faced this year."

Defensive lineman Mario Lara intercepted Esary on an attempted screen pass out of his own end zone, returning it 3 yards for the game’s first score.

From there, the Tigers forced Esary to use his legs to get out of trouble, putting him under constant pressure.

(Featured file photo by Joshua Hart)