The first half was as bad as it could get for Raymond and as good as it could get for Napavine.
The Tigers, however, had to give the ball to the Gulls to start the second half and the Pacific League champions used it. Scoring twice in a dominant third quarter, Raymond erased that first-half performance to hold off Napavine, 19-14, in a state 2B first-round victory at Stewart Field in Aberdeen.
Raymond (7-2) will advance into the state quarterfinals for the first time since it won a state title in 1993. The Gulls will hit the road to take on LaConner next week. LaConner demolished Wahkiakum, 41-20, on Saturday.
“The guys have a lot of heart,” Raymond head coach Rob Clements said. “The knock on the program when we took over was that Raymond boys would quit. You get them down, and people still think that sometimes, the boys would quit. You work hard to come out every day and not quit. The kids have bought into that. The seniors and captains have sold that philosophy.”
The first half was all Napavine — 213 yards of offense, including 139 yards rushing by Layne Hellem — to stake a 14-7 halftime lead. Raymond had minus-3 yards of offense, ran only three plays in the second quarter to Napavine’s 22 and had just Carte Bigbee’s 66-yard first-quarter punt return for a touchdown as a highlight.
“They came out fired up and we knew we’d have some trouble with their size, but the message in the locker room was the same message all year — outwork your opponent and out-condition them,” Clements said. “The tough thing in the first half was that we had the adjustment, but never got the ball. They controlled the second quarter. Once we got the ball back, we got our confidence. Once we get our confidence, we’re a tough team to beat. We needed the chance to show we could run the ball on them.”
Getting the ball to start the second half, Raymond clearly looked like a team that found the secret to opening Napavine’s defense. Keyed by quarterback Andrew Hamilton’s option reads, the Gulls didn’t waste time or yardage.
In eight plays, Raymond used six Hamilton option keepers and two Darol Ratsavongsy runs to get back onto the scoreboard. Ratsavongsy made it 14-13 when the Tigers’ defense went after Hamilton and he took an option pitch 25 yards for the touchdown. The 69-yard drive was the Gulls’ longest drive of the game and it was a momentum grabber.
Napavine returned with Hellem leading the rushing attack. However, a holding penalty pushed the Tigers back and eventually forced a fourth down situation. With 4 yards to go at their 42-yard line, the Tigers gave the ball again to Hellem, who was met by three charging Gulls defenders for the turnover on downs. With the ball at the Tiger 40-yard line, the Gulls didn’t waste the chance. Ratsavongsy’s 4-yard run inside opened up Hamilton on the next play. On an option keeper, the senior quarterback went right, broke three tackles within the first 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and weaved into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion pass failed, but the game was Raymond’s to control.
Napavine’s next two drives would stall on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs. The first drive, highlighted by a 37-yard bomb from David Grace to Jordan Hartley, ended on a Grace incompletion at the Raymond 16-yard line. The second drive, its final drive of the night, ended at the Raymond 45-yard line with 3:31 left in the contest.
Bisbee’s punt return for a touchdown started the scoring midway through the first quarter. Taking the punt on a bounce at the 34-yard line, Bisbee stepped away from two Napavine players and then reversed field. With a line of Raymond blockers in front of him, he went untouched down the far sideline for the touchdown.
“I got the bounce, looked up and I was near the sidelines,” Bisbee said. “From there, I just moved and cut back. I had some great blocks and I was passing people. It was nice. Our team is amazing on special teams. We have guys willing to take the shot in order to make it happen.”
Running on Hellem’s legs, Napavine dominated play. Hellem got Napavine on the board with a 24-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. In the midst of the Tiger-painted second quarter, Grace ran in from 10 yards out for a 14-7 lead. Hellem finished with 184 yards rushing and one touchdown.