There’s new turf in town, at it belongs to the Washougal Panthers.
As the football players began their first practice of the season Wednesday, head coach Bob Jacobs gave them a little advice.
“As you guys step foot on that field for the first time, I want you to think about how grateful you are to be able to play this game. There are plenty of people who would love to trade places with you,” he told them. “Don’t be satisfied with just wearing that uniform. Wear it with pride by giving your maximum effort every time.”
The Panthers remembered their coach’s words as they marched out on that new playing surface at Fishback Stadium as one family. They growled with excitement. One of them sretched out like he was creating a snow angel. After a few sprints, and agility and balance drills, it was time to throw the football around and have some fun.
“This makes the old turf seem like cement,” said senior quarterback Chase Duey. “Normally after the first practice, everybody has sore feet. Nobody’s complaining right now.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the new field will take place Friday, Sept. 6, before the Panther football team plays Hudson’s Bay at 7 p.m.
The Washougal School District and the WHS Turf Campaign Committee worked together to cover the cost of the $499,000 project. Community members and local businesses bought bricks which have been added to the new pathway leading spectators from the gate to the grandstand.
“It’s exciting for these kids,” Jacobs said. “There’s a lot of anticipation for that opening night.”
Washougal hosts five football games this fall, and three of them are against league opponents. After Hudson’s Bay, the Panthers welcome Tenino Sept. 13, Ridgefield Oct. 11, Aberdeen Oct. 18 and Hockinson Nov. 1. All these games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
“The community put their hard work into this place. They come out to watch us on Friday nights,” Duey said. “We really feel like we’re not just playing for ourselves, but for everybody here.”
Before taking the field, the Panthers kicked off practice with some Spartan training. It included five stations of weight lifting, standing jumps and sprints. Each rotation lasted five minutes with limited rest in between. Fatigue mounted with each session, but the Panthers continued to fight, scratch and claw through the pain.
“Your body has no reason to adapt unless you push it to discomfort,” Jacobs said. “I’m looking for guys on varsity who are not going to quit. I feel like we have those guys in this room.”
Duey seemed to find a second wind during the final rotation. Seeing that his teammates were struggling, he moved to the middle of the mat and encouraged them to keep pushing.
“It’s senior year. This is our last chance,” Duey said. “The fourth quarter is when it counts. A lot of us are going to be playing both ways, and I know we’re going to be tired. You can’t take off a down or a block. Everybody has to work hard until the end to get where we want to be.”
With a new field in place at Fishback Stadium for years to come, the Panthers are determined to become a winning football program again.
“I think we have that potential,” Duey said.