Hunter Campau was fighting back tears.
Moments after he led Timberline High School on the game-winning drive over Kamiakin in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, the junior quarterback jogged toward the sideline.
He directed his eyes up into the crowded bleachers at South Sound Stadium in Lacey and spotted his father, Doug, looking proudly back.
“I just pointed at him,” Campau said. “I was crying the whole game. It was an emotional game for me.”
Campau played the best game of his high school football career Saturday against the Braves, collecting 275 yards of total offense, and scoring three touchdowns.
His final touchdown, a 27-yard pass that wide receiver Jamarcus Graham snatched away from a defender with 6.7 seconds to play, has the Blazers in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.
And Campau said he won it for his father, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer the day before.
“That’s the guy who is always there for me,” Campau said. “He’s always telling me to stay positive. He really taught me to believe.
“I told him this game was for him, and I wasn’t going to lose it.”
Doug Campau, 55, shared a similar response with his son when the game ended.
“I gave him a big hug,” Doug said. “I said, ‘I’m going to fight just as hard to beat this (cancer) as you did tonight in this football game. We’re going to beat this.’ ”
The drive to keep pushing forward is one of the many ways Hunter Campau and his father are alike.
The two enjoy shooting hoops and tossing the football around. They think alike, walk alike, eat alike and won’t take no for an answer, Doug says.
Timberline coach Nick Mullen remembers seeing the two at a restaurant together a couple years ago.
“I think they were eating the same dinner,” Mullen said. “They have a really strong relationship.”
Doug said he, Campau’s mother Lisa Jones, and her husband, consistently work to be positive influences.
“Whenever I give Hunter a card,” Doug said, “I write in the card, ‘I’m happy you’re living your dream.’ That’s what this kid is doing right now. He’s living his dream.”
Doug taught his son to believe he could.
Campau took over at quarterback midway through Timberline’s game against Bonney Lake in the second week of the season.
He played the position in middle school, and led his freshman team to an undefeated record. But, last season as a sophomore, he joined the varsity roster as a slot receiver.
His first varsity touchdown came against Oak Harbor in the district playoffs — another game-winner.
Trenton Horn found Campau for what looked like a short gain. But Campau dodged several tacklers before crossing the goal-line with 54 seconds to play.
“One thing I see in Hunter is the vision he has on the field, or on the basketball court, to see things that others don’t see,” Doug said. “The perfect example is how he escapes sometimes.”
Campau, 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, has continued to display that elusiveness since earning the starting quarterback role.
“I try to stay up as long as I can, and try to get a play off,” he said. “If I’m about about to get sacked, I just do as much as I can to try to get a positive gain and help our team.”
Entering the state quarterfinals, Campau is 58 of 102 passing for 856 yards and seven touchdowns. He has another 434 rushing yards on 121 carries and 11 touchdowns.
His pocket awareness and scrambling ability resembles Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
“You can never get a clean shot on him,” Mullen said of Campau. “He’s got crazy-quick feet. His lateral movement is insane.”
His arm strength, accuracy, vision on the field, and confidence have steadily improved too. He has yet to lose a game as a quarterback.
“I feel like I can do anything within our playbook,” Campau said. “I feel like I can score on the ground, and I can score with the pass.”
Graham said Campau is a strength on Timberline’s team, and has stepped up this season.
“Hunter just kind of has that ‘it factor,’ he carries himself with confidence,” Mullen said. “The kids will rally around him. And not just on the field.
“Kids are always taking after Hunter because he’s such a good guy. He always does the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
Doug received his diagnosis the Friday morning before the Kamiakin game. The family gathered together, and he told them the news.
Friday afternoon, they learned the cancer is aggressive, but very treatable, Doug said.
“We prayed for the best,” Campau said. “Luckily we got the best.”
Campau said practice that day was tough, and he just tried to get through it. Mullen told him it was OK to show emotion in front of his teammates.
“Him and I talk a lot,” Mullen said. “We have a lot in common. The same thing happened to my mom when I was in high school.
“I told him, like I tell all the kids, ‘I’m there for you. Whatever you need from me, I’ll give to you.’ ”
Campau said his teammates embraced him, and told him they were praying and playing for his father.
“This is a big family,” Doug said. “I look at my boys as my family, and Lisa and her husband as my family.
“But I also look at the basketball and football teams as my family. We’ve met a lot of people, and I call it our village. We take care of our village.”
Doug said he’s lucky to have support, and hopes to see more big moments on the field Saturday, when No. 7 Timberline (11-0) travels to play No. 4 Bellevue (10-1).
“I just know that he’s in the stands, and he believes in me,” Campau said. “He really brings more confidence out of me.”