Time to discuss the big football game today. ‘Cats and a bunch of Papermakers. A state title shot on the line. Preview and thoughts….

Well, the day is finally here. The day that Mount Si High School’s football program has been waiting for for many years now. A shot to earn a chance to compete for a state title. This is their second time getting this chance – the first was in 2012 – but this time, it feels a lot different than the first time. So here we go. Previewing and picking the biggest game perhaps ever in Mount Si High School football history.

KINGCO 4A FOOTBALL
WIAA STATE SEMIFINAL – LOSER OUT, WINNER TO TITLE GAME
MOUNT SI WILDCATS VS. CAMAS PAPERMAKERS
MCKENZIE STADIUM, VANCOUVER, 1:00 P.M. – WIAA NETWORK HERE

The Wildcats are waking up across the Columbia River in Portland this morning, getting set for its biggest test perhaps ever. That 2012 3A semifinal game with Bellevue we didn’t pick that game that year because anyone and everyone associated with the Mount Si program at the time – including yours truly – and who knew about what the deal was with Bellevue expected the Wolverines to win, and win handily. Well, they did. Which brings us to today.

This week has been a special one for head coach Charlie Kinnune. “A lot of flashbacks to 2012 and actually, a lot of reminiscing and thinking back on a whole 28-year career,” the longtime Mount Si head man told us in a lengthy interview yesterday. “It’s been a great ride. I wish I could say that in August I could look you in the eye and said,’yeah, we’re going to be here this weekend.’ I couldn’t say that.”

Defensive lineman and tight end Andrew Edson echoed that. “This run has been amazing,” he told us. “Our coaches believed in us and we believed in us so now we’re just able to enjoy it.”

So with that all said, what should fans look for? Kinnune likes his team’s chances. “I’ll just say this: For Camas to beat us they will need to play their very best game and I’ll stop there,” the coach said.”They’re going to have to play very, very well to beat us and they have played well all year. So it’s going to be a very, very competitive game I believe.”

And we expect it to be competitive as well. Camas as you know from our discussion Monday is 12-0 and has won 40 games over the past four years, including a state title. They are well-coached, have a solid quarterback in senior Blake Ascuitto, excellent senior receiver in Jackson Clemmer and solid running back in junior Jacques Badolato-Birdsell. But, when we saw the film clips on these guys earlier this week, we didn’t see much difference between them and Mount Si’s last three opponents, all of which the Wildcats beat to get to this game today. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical, which at the beginning of the year really worried us, playing teams like that but, gosh, when you take a look at Monroe, Chiawana and Lake Stevens (the three opponents Mount Si has beaten in the playoffs thus far), they’re big they’re strong and they’re physical and we handled them,” Kinnune said.

One of the factors we think that will influence the performance we expect from Mount Si today is the quality of their practices this week. Linebacker Daniel “Rock” Harrison, whose block of a Lake Stevens field goal attempt late in the game last week helped lock up the stunning 24-22 win over the Vikings to send the Wildcats to today’s game, says the team has been practicing well. “Practices have been really sharp, really clean,” Harrison said. “If practice translates perfectly into (the) game then I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll go down and do our job and do what we need to do and come out with a win.” And that continued yesterday, with what was described as another “crisp” practice by Mount Si Football’s Twitter feed at Kalama High School while en route to Vancouver. “Every week we get better as a team and so this week our practices were really good and I just think hopefully (today) you’ll see a better team than you did last week,” Edson said.

QB Clay Millen has thrown for just under 3,000 yards this season – and tossed for 275 of those on 23 of 31 completions/attempts with three TD’s last week in the 24-22 Mount Si win over Lake Stevens, moving his number there on the season to 33. “Clay Millen is on fire. He is on fire,” Kinnune said. And the junior is ready. “I’ve been preparing all week for this,” Millen said. “We’ve practiced really well all week. Our receivers have been playing really well in practice, our defense is playing awesome, our offensive line is playing great so you should expect a great team effort and we’ll try to come out and get a win.” He’s going to be perhaps the best, most explosive quarterback this Camas defense has seen this season, so how they respond to that early will say a lot about where this game goes.

Unity is also a big part of this, according to Millen. “This team just believes in each other,” he said. “We just focus on getting better every single week and going out on game day
and playing our very best.” Harrison concurred, noting the advantages of the travel schedule which had them leave yesterday, spend the night in Portland and get ready with fresh legs this morning. “I would say the more time you get to spend with your team, the closer you get, the more you know each other and the more (it) meshes together better together on the field,” he said.

Kingco has three of the four semifinal entrants – Bothell and Woodinville are set to clash this afternoon as well at Pop Keeney. Wildcat senior receiver Brayden Holt believes that having three of the four teams from the league in the semifinals means a lot about how good Kingco is. “It just..shows how dominant and how powerful our conference is and how tough our schedule is every single year so we’re just going to be ready to show up and represent for Kingco,” Holt said. Keep an eye on him today – he had just one catch last week, a season low, but it went for 28 yards and a touchdown. He’s going to break out today, we expect. As he told us to tell all of you, “Drive safe .. down to McKenzie Stadium and expect a show.”

So, what are the keys to victory for Mount Si?

-The game plan just needs to be the same as it’s been the past three weeks. Millen, Holt, running back Cole Norah and receiver Andrew Mostofi will all need to play strong. Also pay close attention again to sophomore Aidan Dougherty, who’s going to be a nice supporting weapon on offense but may be a more important piece on defense, as we’d expect him to get some of the assignments dealing with Clemmer.

-Junior corner back Stuart DeMerit has faced some big tests the past three weeks and he’s earned A’s. Especially this past week, picking off two passes from Lake Stevens QB Tanner Jellison. He’s also going to get Clemmer to deal with today, and a good arm in Ascuitto. If DeMerit delivers again, good news is more likely in the offing for the boys from the Valley.

-Crisp practices, clean practices as we mentioned, if those translate, that’s a good development. Keep in mind, though, today’s officials are going to be GSHL-affiliated to some respect, not Kingco officials. So guys will have to be mindful to adapt to how they call the game.

-The neutral field. Won’t be a problem for Mount Si, but we think it might be for Camas. There’s just something about playing at home that can help fuel a team’s energy, and as all of you know, Mount Si’s team feeds off that energy every week they’re at home in perhaps the best setting in all of 4A high school football. But Camas’ home stadium, Doc Harris Stadium, also ranks up there too in our view. We went and did the ’06 game while with the Valley Record and we can say with certainty that the Doc is what a small-town high school football stadium should be.

This week has also been about the impact of the new campus and a lot of other things on helping the growth of this program, which has been evident now for a good 10-plus years and was spearheaded in large measure by a strong booster club, headed up for a number of years by former booster president – and father of former players and current Mount Si assistant coaches Josh and Taylor Mitchell – Jeff Mitchell. Today’s booster club has built on that foundation of success, and the addition of the new campus has sent things to a new level.

“For me it’s kind of the crushing of four things – it’s players, coaches, facilities and support,” Kinnune said. “You need players, you need a coaching staff and people that are committed. You need facilities now, you need places for kids to train, you need that and last one, you need administrative support, you need parent support, you need community support and if you can get them all going at once and in unison, you’re going to be successful and that’s what we have in our league,” Kinnune said.

The history is of course on Mount Si’s side, too. A win in 2006 over these Camas guys on their field at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas in the state playoffs, and the Kingco is 4-3 against the GSHL the past two years, including a pair of wins for the Wildcats over the Papermakers’ rivals Skyview.

So with that, it’s now time for the verdict. First, though, a message from Kinnune to you, the fans and community. “Thank you community for being behind us. We feel the energy, we feel your thoughts for sure. Our mission is to represent our community really and what we’re about and we want to reflect our roots and we want to reflect our workman attitude,” the coach said. “We’re workers and we want our community to know that these young men have worked really, really hard for this and we all appreciate the support.”

We have gone 0-3 with our selections the past three weeks, going along with the computers, and the media in a lot of cases (although it was a little more split for the Monroe and Chiawana games media-wise as we remember it). And that seems to also be part of the lore of this run, the underdog element to it. But, we told you on Twitter at the beginning of the week we were favoring Mount Si to win, and we’ve not seen anything or heard anything during the course of this week that makes us change our mind. Even though the computers and the media are again going with the opponent. So with that said, Taylor, this one’s for you. The ‘Cats are going to fly. Fly all the way to Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma next week and a shot at the ultimate prize. The ultimate glory. A state football title.

MOUNT SI 28, CAMAS 24

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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