With memories of his grandmother pumping his beating heart, Brandon Casteel tore the Ridgefield Spudders to shreds Friday at Fishback Stadium.
Following the pursuit of offensive linemen Sam Barnes, Bailey Burk, Aubrey Kraft, Sean Larson and John Sunderland, Casteel rushed for 291 yards and scored three touchdowns to help Washougal win 26-14.
After such a physical and emotional game, Casteel made it clear that this was no one man show. He gave everything he had for the teammates, coaches, teachers and friends who supported him since his grandma passed away.
“Regardless of what I did today, I couldn’t have done it without my team,” Casteel said. “My line made a hole. I have to hit it as hard as I can and run until I can’t.”
Monte Georgianna and Casteel intercepted passes, but the Panthers were unable to take advantage. Casteel turned the game on a dime in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter. He tugged away from a couple of defenders, popped the seam and took off on a 98-yard touchdown run.
Ridgefield tied the game on a couple of long runs and a touchdown pass. Casteel added a 92-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but the Spudders tied the score again before halftime.
“We made mistakes and they made mistakes. The biggest difference is, we didn’t give up on ourselves,” said head coach Dave Hajek. “Our kids played hard, they played tough and they played with class and dignity. To me, that’s Washougal football.”
The Panthers put the Spudders on the skids in the second half and outscored them 12-0.
It all started on an interception by Zack Neketuk. The Panthers gained new life on a pass interference call after having a touchdown called back because of an illegal block.
The offense reset. Quarterback Kyron Carlson eluded the defensive press and plunged into the end zone on a 14-yard run.
Casteel put the finishing touches on the victory with a 70-yard touchdown run before the end of the third quarter. As Tristan Roseff, Garrett Duey, Casteel and Neketuk kept the clock running on offense, the Panthers dug their nails into the turf and stopped Ridgefield on every turn.
“It shows the senior leadership we have,” Hajek said. “They weren’t given anything. They earned it.”
After losing a heartbreaker to White Salmon a week ago, the Panthers sent the fans home happy with a league victory.
“Coming in as underdogs and proving we are something in this league is amazing,” said defensive end Dakota Payne. “This is our house. Our home. We want to have the best defense in the league and a great offense to go with it.”
Washougal will be working harder in practice this week to prepare for R.A. Long Friday, at Longview Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“You look forward to practice because you get to play with your friends and compete as hard as you can,” Casteel said. “We’re one big family. That’s all it is.”