A happy homecoming

Panthers prepare for another battle with Aberdeen

There’s no place like Fishback Stadium for the Washougal High School football team.

After losing at Rainier, Ore., and at R.A. Long, in Longview, the Panthers returned to a festive homecoming atmosphere and defeated Ridgefield 36-18 Friday. Washougal is 3-0 on the new turf.

“It’s an inspiring environment to play in front of that large crowd,” said head coach Bob Jacobs. “These kids will always play hard for this community and this town.”

Washougal only managed to score three points in a loss at Ridgefield a year ago. The Panthers also blew a 17-point lead in their last homecoming game. Those were two pitfalls they were determined to avoid Friday.

Washougal wasted little time. Brandon Casteel crossed the goal line on a 37-yard touchdown run in less than a minute after the opening kick off. Bobby Jacobs rushed for 230 yards in the game and scored four touchdowns. All of them came after Ridgefield took a 12-7 lead following the first drive of the third quarter.

“We rallied in that second half. Nobody gave up and it went in our favor,” said Casteel, a junior. “We gave up a tough [homecoming game] to R.A. Long last year. We wanted to give the seniors the best experience possible because they had a crummy one last year. It meant a lot to them and it meant a lot to us to be a part of it with them.”

Jacobs grilled the Spudders with the help of his teammates. Sam Barnes, Chase Duey, Christian Edmonson, Luke Hiersche, Donald Holbert Jr., Will Peterson and Adam Thomas put their bodies on the line to make blocks and tackles.

“Once you get through those creases, it’s off to the races. When you see green, it gives you that adrenaline rush and that extra kick to go,” Jacobs said. “It’s huge to come out in our last homecoming game and get a win like that. It shows that even if we get a little adversity, we’re not going to slow down.”

Washougal got the lead right back in the third quarter on a 16-yard touchdown run by Jacobs. Hiersche caught the 2-point conversion pass from Duey to put the Panthers up 15-12. It would stay that way until Washougal scored 21 points in the final seven minutes of the game.

Jacobs blasted through the defense on a 33-yard touchdown run. Casteel then caused a fumble, Peterson picked the ball up and took it all the way back to the 1-yard line.

“I was just going to jump on it, but then I heard Chase [Duey] yell ‘pick it up and run,’” Peterson said. “It felt great. I’m a guard and a defensive end. I don’t touch the ball.”

Jacobs took the next snap, jumped over the line and scored another touchdown.

“I got a yard to go. I just wanted to do that for my team,” Jacobs said. “When you come out of one of those slumps and you come together as a team, there’s nothing else like it.”

Jacobs wasn’t finished. He scored his third touchdown of the quarter on a 48-yard run. Ridgefield’s final drive of the game ended on an interception by Holbert. The Panthers took a knee and celebrated victory.

“Everything about that fourth quarter felt great,” Peterson said. “It showed the heart of the team.”

Washougal hosts Aberdeen Friday, at Fishback Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Panthers return to Longview to face Mark Morris before coming back home to play Hockinson.

“Our goal is to be competitive,” said coach Jacobs. “We have some tough games coming up. What I’m asking our kids to do is play as hard as you can for as long as you can and give yourselves an opportunity.”