Every high school football season begins with a slate of non-league games. Some are pretty decent matchups, while others can be rather lopsided affairs between schools in different classifications. When it was announced that the Lincoln Abes would be hosting the Camas Papermakers under the lights of historic Lincoln Bowl, I thought it could be the makings of a championship-caliber contest.

While Lincoln has become a state powerhouse in the 3A classification, the Papermakers were just two years removed from hoisting the 2016 4A state championship trophy.

It’s not very often that one gets to witness what looked like a state semifinal game being played out on the opening night of the football season. There were some other potent matchups around the state on opening weekend, but none of them offered the sizzle that these two teams would be bringing to the turf.

The action that took place on the field would end up living up to the big-game hype. Both teams left it all out there on the field, and on the way to the final whistle, they kept the sizable crowd on both sides of Lincoln Bowl riveted and biting their finger nails.

After the early moments of the game, things were going entirely Lincoln’s way. After holding Camas to a three-and-out to open the game, Lincoln took over on their own 25-yard line. It would take the Abes just five plays to reach the Camas 21-yard line. On the next play, Lincoln junior quarterback Caden Filer lofted a pass toward the left side of the end-zone. Senior wide receiver Romere Williams was able to create some space between Camas defensive back Blake Deringer and hauled in the pass for a touchdown. Following a kick by senior Gabriel Foster, Lincoln led 7-0 with 9:14 remaining in the first quarter.

Lincoln’s defense again sent the Camas offense back to the sidelines following a three-and-out on the subsequent possession. This time, it would only take the Abes two plays to hit pay dirt, following the Papermakers’ punt. With the ball on the Lincoln 34-yard line, Filer launched a deep pass down the right sideline. Senior wide receiver Mykel Campbell caught the ball, juked his defender and outran the rest of the Camas defense to the end-zone for a 66-yard touchdown. The Abes now led 14-0 with 7:32 remaining in the first quarter.

Trying to change the flow of the game, Camas rolled out their third quarterback of the ball game and the gamble backfired immediately. On his first pass, sophomore Camas quarterback Jake Blair sent a pass toward the left sideline on a quick out route. The ball never found its desired destination as Lincoln super sophomore Julen Simon jumped the route, intercepted the football, shook off a would-be tackler and rambled 25-yards into the end-zone for another Lincoln touchdown. Another solid point-after kick put Lincoln up 21-0 with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Admittedly, the score in half of a quarter had me looking out of the corner of my eye, to see if Rod Serling was going to come walking out to introduce this newest edition of “The Twilight Zone.”

Camas nearly earned itself a first down on the next drive, but a screen pass was batted down by senior defensive tackle Giovonni White. Following the punt, Lincoln would take over on their own 43-yard line. Six plays later, the drive had stalled, but Foster was able to hammer a 33-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Abes a 24-0 lead with 3:18 still remaining in the first quarter.

The teams would then trade possessions that got nowhere fast. Camas was able to then earn its initial first down of the ball game with 11:35 remaining in the second quarter. The Papermakers put together a long drive, marching the ball all the way to the Lincoln 24-yard line. On first down, the ball hit the turf and Lincoln senior defensive back Kalil Rogers pounced on the ball. Nothing seemed to be going Camas’ way and their crowd looked like they were attending a funeral.

Lincoln would keep its foot on the accelerator and marched down to the Camas 26-yard line. On second down, Filer stayed in the pocket with a defensive lineman bearing down upon him. The lefty waited for his receiver to come free and zipped the ball up the center of the field, just before getting hit himself. On the other end of the ball was Simon, who caught the ball in-between coverage and dashed into the end-zone untouched for the 26-yard score. Lincoln now led 31-0 with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter.

It would be the last time Lincoln put the ball in end-zone.

After trading punts, Camas would get the ball back with just over a minute remaining in the first half. It would take just three plays for the Papermakers to hit the jackpot, and it was a momentum shifter going into the locker rooms. Camas’ Shane Jamison crossed the goal-line on a 50-yard catch and run, just as the clock hit zero on the scoreboard. The 31-7 Lincoln lead still looked impressive, but one couldn’t help but sense that the Papermakers had finally kicked the gremlins out of their huddle.

The Abes opened the second half all the way back on the Lincoln six yard line. Two snaps later, the football zipped over the head of Filer and out of the back of the end-zone for a Camas safety. Lincoln’s lead was now 31-9 with 11:18 left in the third quarter.

Lincoln was also playing the second half without Campbell, who appeared to have hurt his wrist shortly before the first half came to a close. It was obvious that the offense and defense were missing the athletic, long talent and Camas was happy to take advantage of his absence.

The two defenses gave up very little for the remainder of the third quarter. However, it appeared that Camas had seized the momentum in the game. The only question was whether Lincoln would have enough left in the tank to hold on to their shrinking lead.

Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Camas struck again. A 13-yard touchdown run up the gut would cut Lincoln’s lead to just 31-16 with 11:03 left in the ball game. The two teams would then trade punts before the Abes coughed up the football near midfield. Camas wasted little time tightening the score, as they capped a six-play, 52-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown scamper by Randy Yaacoub. Lincoln’s lead was now just eight points at 31-23 with 3:41 remaining in the ball game.

Lincoln’s offense sputtered on the next drive and the Abes were forced to punt. Camas took over with 2:22 left in the game and went straight too work. With the Lincoln defense on their heels, the Papermakers marched all the way to the Lincoln nine yard line with four downs to find the end-zone. It would only take one play. A race to the pile-on by senior Luc Sturbelle pulled Camas within two points at 31-29. The Papermakers would have to go for two.

Senior quarterback Andrew Boyle lofted a pass toward the back-right corner of the end-zone. Unfortunately for the Papermakers, he didn’t put enough air underneath the ball and Simon stepped up yet again, pulling down the interception in the end-zone, snuffing the final charge by the visitors. Lincoln would then run out the clock, escaping with a heart-pounding 31-29 victory over a powerful and impressive opponent.

Up next for the Abes is a road trip against the 4A sixth-ranked Lake Stevens Vikings on Friday, Sept. 7. Lincoln will then play rival Wilson on Friday, Sept. 14, at Stadium Bowl at 7 p.m.

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