Panthers get off to a phenomenal start

Washougal humbles Hudson's Bay 41-9

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Sam O'Hara (3) makes his way into the end zone for the Washougal football team Friday, at Fishback Stadium.

To find out the difference a year made in Washougal only took 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

That’s how much time came off the clock before the Panthers scored the first of five touchdowns to defeat Hudson’s Bay 41-9 Friday, at Fishback Stadium.

“I think the fans had a lot of fun Friday night. I know the kids did,” said head coach Bob Jacobs. “The kids have a lot of confidence in our offense, and they executed it at a high level.”

Sizing up the Eagles before kick off, Jacobs and the Panthers had butterflies. They saw the number of bodies and their size. They remembered about not playing so well at home last year, with tough losses to Fort Vancouver and Crook County. Jacobs said it was because Washougal was unable to play 48 minutes in those games, but this is a different year.

“One of things I told the kids was not to get so excited before the game that we forget what we’re supposed to do out there,” Jacobs said. “Act like you’ve been here before.”

The Panthers did just that. On first down, Caleb Howard carried the football 30 yards to get the crowd roaring out of the gate. After a short run by Austin Tofell, and then a loss of a few yards on the next play, quarterback Colton Sullivan came back with a nice pass to Karsten Short to set up a first-and-goal. Howard capped off the opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. In five quick plays in 2:17, Washougal got its first seven points in 2011.

It would only be the beginning. After the Panthers got the ball back, Sam O’Hara smashed through the defenders like they were bowling pins for a huge gain. Sullivan and Short hooked up on another swift pass, and it was first-and-goal for Washougal again. O’Hara whipped around on a reverse hand off and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run.

On their third possession, the Panthers showed no signs of slowing down. Following some beautiful blocking by his teammates, Tofell galloped with the ball for about 50 yards as the first quarter came to an end. Washougal stumbled on the other side of the field, and settled for a field goal try. O’Hara kicked it from about 35 yards away, but the ball sailed wide left.

In the blink of an eye, Hudson’s Bay punted the ball right back. What followed was Washougal’s best drive of the evening. Zach Boland, O’Hara, Sullivan and Stephan Camden completed first downs in succession, before Howard broke away for a 23-yard dash to the end zone. After those five first downs and a touchdown, the Panthers led 20-0.

“That was our point of emphasis coming into this year. We didn’t want to be one dimensional,” Jacobs said. “[O’Hara] is a big guy in what we do, but Camden, Howard and Tofell are all too good to be kept on the sidelines.”

The Eagles finally reached the end zone, just before halftime. They came out with more physicality in the second half, but were held to just two points. Washougal scored 21 points in the second half, including 18 in the fourth quarter.

“When we got in the locker room at halftime, I told the kids we still had 24 minutes before the game was over. Bear down,” Jacobs said.

O’Hara kicked a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter. In the fourth, Short caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Sullivan. O’Hara added a 43-yard field goal, and Camden ran in a 4-yard touchdown.

Statistics for the Panthers were pretty spread out. Tofell took 11 carries for 116 yards, Howard delivered 11 carries for 98 yards, Camden added 10 carries for 41 yards and O’Hara had 9 carries for 40 yards. Sullivan racked up 131 passing yards, 73 of those went to Short. Boland also made a few catches for 38 yards.

Washougal hosts White Salmon Friday, at Fishback Stadium. Kick off is at 7 p.m.