After an exciting 24 minutes of football Friday at Longview Memorial Stadium, the Washougal Panthers were in the game.
R.A. Long ran for touchdowns of 35 and 58 yards in the first half, but both times Washougal answered. The Panthers scored 15 points in the second quarter on a 2-yard TD run by Sam O’Hara, a 2-yard TD run by Aleks Arzhanov and a 2-point conversion run by O’Hara.
“Twice we faced adversity, and both times we were able to come back and score a touchdown,” Arzhanov said. “We’re determined. We’re Washougal football. We don’t give up.”
Both teams headed into the locker room deadlocked in a 15-15 tie. The Panthers looked for more in the opening drive of the third quarter, but a false start penalty on fourth down with one yard to go stopped them dead in their tracks. Washougal punted, and R.A. Long scored 21 straight points on way to a 36-22 victory.
“Like our coaches told us after the game, we need to play 48 minutes of football,” Arzhanov said. “We played hard for about 30 minutes, maybe one or two more, but that was not enough. We need to keep our head in the game, keep the fire in our eyes, and stomp out the opponent’s fire.”
Still showing plenty of heart after trailing 36-15, the Panthers marched down to the end zone one more time. Quarterback Colton Sullivan completed a 15-yard pass to Arzhanov, and a 14-yard pass to O’Hara. After another 7-yard pass to Arzhanov, Sullivan sprinted for a first down. Arzhanov got Washougal to first-and-goal on a 12-yard run, Austin Tofell scored on a 3-yard touchdown run and O’Hara carried in another 2-point conversion.
The Panthers tried the onside kick, but the Lumberjacks recovered. R.A. Long ran down the clock, while Washougal scratched and clawed to get the ball back. There was just not enough time left.
“Our kids don’t quit. There is a lot of fight in them,” said Washougal head coach Bob Jacobs. “We had about three quarters where we played competitively, but we also made some mistakes. These kids don’t take losses like they used to. They take them a lot harder, and they should.”
The Panthers are still above .500, with a record of 3-2. All three victories have come on the road.
“We’ve played pretty well on the road,” Jacobs said. “A lot of times, the road can be hostile to you.”
The road trips have also brought the Panthers closer together.
“Washougal is like a family. It’s as close as anybody can get,” Arzhanov said. “It’s a blessing to be able to go out on the road with these guys and play football. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
There are plenty of signs that Washougal is backing the Panthers. Fire hydrants on 39th Street have been painted black and orange, to go along with the white paw prints on the road. There was also a tailgate party at the Washougal Crossing Columbia Credit Union building, the day before the Panthers played R.A. Long.
On Friday, the hometown fans have the opportunity to go crazy again at Fishback Stadium, when the Panthers welcome Crook County, Ore. to Washougal. Homecoming festivities begin at 7 p.m.
“We talked about this year being the rise of the Panthers,” Jacobs said. “Washougal is a great town. We want the support of the community, the kids and the school. That’s what fuels us.”