Rainier High School’s historic football season ended in the first round of the Class 2B state playoffs Friday night in Centralia.
But that won’t define what the No. 9 Mountaineers accomplished this season.
After keeping defending state champion Napavine within manageable reach for two quarters, Rainier gave up touchdowns on four straight drives in the second half, dropping the 40-7 loss at Tiger Stadium.
Napavine quarterback Dawson Stanley scored four touchdowns, Noah Lantz contributed three, keeping the No. 3 Tigers in position to make a fourth consecutive appearance in the title game three weeks from now.
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But, while Napavine celebrated its eighth trip to the quarterfinals in the past nine years, Rainier coach Terry Shaw pulled his players aside to remind them just what their team did this season.
The Mountaineers (7-3) advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in 26 years. They opened the season with three consecutive shutouts. And they made those strides with less than 20 players on the field.
“I just told them, ‘The rest of your life you’re going to face things that don’t go your way. But, you can’t lose track of who you are and what you’ve become,’ ” Shaw said.
“I don’t want them getting down on Rainier football, I don’t want them getting down on themselves. We played a really good team, they’re used to winning state championships. Things didn’t go our way.”
During the first half, though, it seemed the two programs were more evenly matched than their last meeting in October, which resulted in a 22-0 Napavine shutout in the pouring rain.
Rainier scored on its opening drive less than two minutes into the game. Quarterback Zach Lofgren scampered for a 36-yard gain before Brody Klein broke off a 44-yard touchdown run to give the Mountaineers an early lead.
The Tigers fired back with a 60-yard scoring drive that lasted nearly six minutes. Lantz stamped the drive with a 10-yard score for his first of two rushing touchdowns.
The Mountaineers marched to the red zone twice more in the first half, but both drives stalled.
Rainier appeared to intercept Stanley at the 1-yard line just before the half expired, but it was ruled a Napavine catch, setting up Stanley’s touchdown plunge with 32 seconds remaining.
Napavine took the 14-7 lead into the break, and Rainier never answered.
Klein gave the Mountaineers a chance early on in the second half, picking off Stanley to end a scoring threat, but Rainier couldn’t convert.
The Mountaineers turned the ball over on downs three times, and lost a fumble to end their four second-half drives. And Napavine progressively pulled away on each of its possessions.
“They just found a few things,” Shaw said. “The two or three deep balls, we’re in position to make a play on the ball, and their guy made the play on the ball.”
Lantz scored again on a 3-yard run near the end of the third quarter to ignite a series of four straight scoring drives for the Tigers.
Jordan Purvis broke away from two defenders and hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Stanley on the next possession.
Stanley then found Lantz for a 6-yard score midway through the fourth, and stumbled up the middle for his final 19-yard score with just over two minutes to play.
Stanley finished 11 of 21 passing for 190 yards and two scores, and added another 83 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts.
Klein led the Mountaineers with 55 rushing yards on nine carries, while Lofgren added 54 yards on seven carries and senior running back Ian Russell contributed 49 yards on 11 attempts.
“We’ve done something special, and those are special kids, and we’ve accomplished more than 17 kids should ever accomplish in high school football,” Shaw said.
“I don’t want them to lose track of who they are and who they’ve become just because things fell apart for us in the second half.”
NO. 9 RAINIER
NO. 3 NAPAVINE
R – Brody Klein 17 run (Ian Russell kick)
N – Noah Lantz 10 run (kick)
N – Dawson Stanley 1 run (kick)
N – Lantz 3 run (kick failed)
N – Jordan Purvis 53 pass from Stanley (kick failed)
N – Lantz 6 pass from Stanley (kick)
N – Stanley 19 run (kick)