The howling inside Fishback Stadium could be heard all across town Friday night, and then there was silence.
Colton Sullivan kicked a 36-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired in the first half to give the Washougal Panthers a 16-14 lead. Sullivan also scored on a 6-yard touchdown run, and Nathan Adams caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Howard.
“To be able to drive down the field, get into field goal range and take the lead felt really great,” said head coach Bob Jacobs. “Whether it was against Fort Vancouver, R.A. Long or Crook County, we ran into the same scenario. We couldn’t put them away.”
Washougal gained more momentum early in the third quarter. Senior middle linebacker Ryan Erdwins intercepted a Crook County pass that seemed destined for the end zone, but the Panthers could not move the ball forward without being called back for a penalty. The majority of the infractions left Washougal coaches, players and fans feeling helpless, while the Cowboys could not be stopped. They galloped to 19 straight points, and lassoed a 33-16 victory.
“I felt like our offense played well in the first half, and at times in the second half,” Jacobs said. “The penalties just killed our drives. There was a parade of yellow flags that rained on us. Not only did we have to overcome Crook County, but also the officials. It was too much.”
Crook County had Washougal on the ropes early by scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Aleks Arzhanov, Sam O’Hara and Sullivan earned first downs to move the Panthers into scoring position. Adams caught a 14-yard pass from Sullivan and made his way into the end zone, but Washougal was called back for holding.
On the next snap, Sullivan handed off to Howard, and Howard fired a 28-yard pass to Adams on the fly. This time, there was no doubt. Adams dove across the goal line with the ball in his hands, and the officials signaled touchdown.
“That’s one of those plays you save for later in the game, but I felt like we needed to answer the bell,” Jacobs said.
The game would not be tied for long, before the Cowboys scored again. They got the ball back, and proceeded to put the game away. That’s when the Panthers made a huge defensive stand, and the momentum swung in their favor.
“Those guys just bared down,” said defensive coordinator Tim Fox. “There’s not another word for it. They just bared down.”
Sullivan brought the Washougal crowd to its feet when he faked out a defender and rushed for 38 yards. He finished off a 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. The Panthers got the ball back, and marched down the field one more time. Adams made a 26-yard pass to set Sullivan up for a field goal.
After an inspiring first half for Washougal, it all went downhill in a hurry. Jacobs said the Panthers might have been a little too wound up by all the Homecoming festivities.
“There was a lot of emotion and distraction this week, and kids going in different directions,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, we forgot what we were doing. Our purpose is to play the game.
“You have to be able to overcome adversity, and you have to be able to do it with class,” Jacobs added. “There’s a lot of pressure to perform well at home. I feel that pressure too. The guys just need to relax and play football. This game is supposed to be fun.”