COTTAGE GROVE — Just minutes removed from the final horn of 2012, Josh Garcia had to gather himself in order to turn the loud noises produced by him and most everyone else representing Camas Valley into words.
The junior tailback took a deep breath. Real deep breath. And then it came back out.
“One more year!,” Garcia screamed. “We’re coming back for another one, baby!”
Call it a one-track mind. When it comes to championships, he’s not the only Hornet affected by it these days.
The Hornets fed their newfound obsession again Saturday, capping a second straight perfect season to deliver the school’s sixth OSAA eight-man title with a 24-8 defeat of the St. Paul Buckaroos at Herald White Stadium.
Six Hornet seniors got appropriate closure, too, considering their 22-8 loss to the Buckaroos in the 2010 title game. Since then, the Hornets (13-0) have won 27 straight games.
“This was the team we’ve been wanting to play ever since,” all-state senior lineman Lanakila Peck said while gripping the trophy. “Trust me, it’s a real joy to get our revenge.”
Peck was one of the few Hornets not overmatched in stature by the Buckaroos, who had used their size all year to wear opponents down on the ground while averaging 67.9 points per game.
But the Camas Valley defense — which had become accustomed to being overshadowed by a record-breaking offense — stole the spotlight by holding St. Paul to an average of 3.3 yards on 35 carries. The Buckaroos (11-1) had not been held to a single touchdown in any of the last four seasons, three of which have resulted in finals appearances.
Sophomore linebacker Kai Wolfe put a stop to St. Paul’s final two possessions with interceptions. One of his hits also helped cause Buckaroos tailback Cole Weisz’ third-quarter fumble, which Wolfe grabbed and tossed to Weston Tilton so he could run 40 yards downfield and set up the Hornets’ final score.
“Defensively, it was all heart for 48 minutes,” junior linebacker Matthew Thompson said. “It was a blast playing with that kind of intensity with my teammates. They did score eight points, but hey, what can you do?”
The Camas Valley offense also proved to be more futile than it had been since the teams last met two years ago, but came through more than enough to survive.
Junior quarterback Josh Mattox gave the Hornets the lead on their first possession with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Garcia, then in the second quarter hooked up with Tilton, who provided the highlight of the game by going over the top of his defender to make a 40-yard TD catch.
When Austin Weisz’ 25-yard run brought the Buckaroos within one score on the first possession of the second half, the Hornets immediately answered with a scoring drive capped by Garcia’s 5-yard run.
Senior all-state tailback Eli Wolfe Jr., who had a game-high 86 rushing yards on 20 carries, tacked on the final TD of the game on Camas Valley’s next drive.
“It’s something I can move on with and be happy,” Wolfe said. “We worked hard ever since we were younger, and hopefully the kids in town playing football with a shoe to mark the back of the end zone in their yards just like we did can see that.”
Having little luck on the ground, the Buckaroos turned to their passing game to move the ball. Quarterback Danny Drescher completed 13 of 27 passes for 189 yards, helping the Buckaroos outgain the Hornets 303-280.
The Buckaroos were stymied when it counted though — they converted just four of 12 third-down plays and none of their five fourth-down attempts — by a Hornet defense that proved to be too fast to handle.
“It just feels so good for these kids because I know how much effort and energy and love and passion they have for the game, and it just overflowed into their play,” Camas Valley head coach Eli Wolfe said. “I Just can’t say enough good things about them. It wasn’t easy, but nothing good’s easy and they believe that.”
When it was over, the Hornets lined up in the endzone to run sprints together one final time, just as they did after their final loss two years ago.
This time, though, there were no tears. Only loud yells, and a lecture from Eli Wolfe Jr. before he took off his uniform for the last time.
“This isn’t over,” he yelled repeatedly at his teammates. “You guys are gonna be right back here next year to do it again.”
St. Paul 0 0 8 0 — 8
Camas Valley 6 6 12 0 — 24
1st: CV — Garcia 14 pass from Mattox (pass failed). 2nd: CV — Tilton 40 pass from Mattox (pass failed). 3rd: SP — A. Weisz 25 run (Merten pass from Drescher); CV — Garcia 5 run (pass failed); CV — E. Wolfe 5 run (run failed).
First Downs 16 14
Total Net Yards 303 280
Rushes-Yards 35-114 41-159
Passing Yards 189 121
Comp-Att-Int 13-27-2 8-18-3
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Punts-Avg. 3-30.0 2-35.5
Penalties-Yards 5-30 7-46
RUSHING — St. Paul, C. Weisz 14-58; A. Weisz 11-38; Torres 2-10; Drescher 8-8. Camas Valley, E. Wolfe 20-86; Garcia 9-54; Mattox 8-12; Lindsey 2-8; Tilton 1-0; Melson 1-(-1).
PASSING — St. Paul, Drescher 13-27-2, 189. Camas Valley, Mattox, 8-18-3, 121.
RECEIVING — St. Paul, G. Merten 4-74; C. Merten 4-62; Torres 3-46; A. Weisz 2-7. Camas Valley, Garcia 5-63; Tilton 3-58.