By Jeremy McDonald
TILLAMOOK, Ore.– Their game with Neah-Kah-Nie was a quick fill-in last second after finding out that Chemawa was going to a JV-Only Schedule in 2017 for the Gervais Football team this season.
When the game began, the team facing the Cougars had 20 athletes at least 5’10 or higher and were built like they play for West Salem or Sprague in the Salem-area; Gervais on the other hand, has about 10-12 athletes in that range. But the Cougars competed well as outside of a 15-yard penalty that set up a Pirate score, it was a evenly-match game as you could make it entering the middle part of the second quarter.
Kona Kawamura and Dyontae Navarrete were their usual dominate selves as Nate Corpuz connected to them a few times off screen-plays as only mental errors kept Gervais off the board down eight.
But, then something unexpected and unthinkable happened.
While on a play, Kawamura went down hard only to be taken off the field. Moments later, as the Cougars were looking for a trainer, Kawamura was in pain holding his shoulder.
It was a broken collarbone.
The spiritual, vocal and physical leader of Gervais was out and on the next defensive possession, Neah-Kah-Nie hit the Cougar defense where Kawamura was and increased their lead to 16-0 entering halftime as the injury was a punch that Gervais was not looking for.
“It was pretty hard you know, he’s a really, really big part of this team and for him…not knowing if he’s going to come back or not, it’s a really big part, he’s apart of our family,” said Chazz Fobert, who scored one of the two Cougar touchdown’s Saturday night. “He’s a huge part of our family. He comes out here, he gives 100-percent every time and we lost one of those guys that plays 100-percent. No matter the score, he’s always out there playing 100-percent, losing him is hard.”
“Kona is a huge loss, it’s a big challenge to find someone for his spot,” said Head Coach Josh Crawford on the loss of Kawamura. “Keep the positive going and stress the forget the negative. It’s about the play that’s about to happen not the last one.”
The Cougars tried to find that spark they had to start the opening 16, 18 minutes of the game in the second half, finding sparks from a defensive goal-line stand and two offensive touchdowns against a Pirates defense that has only allowed 26 total points entering Friday’s game; but the Cougars had a tough time slowing down a Neah-Kah-Nie offense led by 6’2 235 pound running back Tristan Bennett as the Pirates pulled away in the 44-12 victory Friday night.
The adversity of now playing without the heart and soul of their team will be hard, and the final two-plus quarters of it was evidence of that. Team’s in their own conference know the difficulties of overcoming situations like this like with a Scio with the injury bug late last season.
The age-old question becomes now is how do you respond? It’s easier with those 6A schools like a Sprague or West to plug a back-up in while at 2A/3A you got less so you expect more out of the 28, 30, 32 kids in your program to do more on a regular basis.
Navarrete showed flashes to be the guy moving forward after Kawamura’s injury as it looks like Kawamura may be out for the season.
Fobert, who eluded to the heart and effort that Kawamura gives everyday, added too that it’s up to someone around them to step up with another hard-nose team in Willamina next Friday on the road.
“We just have to find another kid that wants to come out as hard as he did,” starts Fobert. “We just need to find a kid that wants to play 100-percent and won’t get scared of anyone.
“Just got to get the guys fired up out at practice,” Fobert said how he can help to the cause. “We just got to keep 100-percent on practice, we got to go 110-percent at practice.”
For whether long Kawamura is out for, the Cougars know what it’s like to succeed with someone like him even though there is no two-exact clones of Kona Kawamura’s out there, but there’s a way to fill his shoes:
Put in the effort and passion he put in everyday.