Homecoming victory for Washougal

Panthers host Hockinson for final home game Friday

The Washougal football team gained a stunning 18-14 victory against Hudson’s Bay Friday, at Fishback Stadium.

This was the first league win of the season for the Panthers. And, it couldn’t have come at a better time than Homecoming night.

“It was our Homecoming game. We had to win this one to stay alive in the playoff hunt,” said senior receiver and defensive back Dan Davis. “We just had all of the motivation to go out and beat them.”

Zack Neketuk eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in the game. The senior also scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help Washougal erase the 8-point deficit it had been facing since before halftime.

“He never winced. He said, just give me the ball. Keep giving me the ball,” said head coach Dave Hajek. “By the end, he was running over guys. It was fun to watch.”

Hudson’s Bay held on to a 14-6 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Neketuk got Washougal within two on a 4-yard touchdown run with 6:45 left in the game, but the Panthers failed to get the 2-point conversion into the end zone.

Washougal got the ball back with 3:48 to go. Kade Coons crossed the midfield on a 23-yard run. Neketuk added rushes of 8 and 17 yards before reaching the end zone again on a 14-yard dash. His second touchdown gave the Panthers an 18-14 lead with 2:33 left on the clock.

“We just had to finish the game,” Davis said. “We weren’t going to let it slip out of our hands.”

Opportunity slipped away from the Eagles on a hit from behind by Washougal linebacker Doneald Holbert Jr. Jacob Albert-Sonnemann recovered the fumbled football for the Panthers.

Washougal took as much time off the clock as it could before punting away with about 30 seconds left. After Austin McLaughlin intercepted a desperation pass by Hudson’s Bay, the Panthers celebrated a hard fought victory in front of their hometown.

“Although we haven’t had a lot of success, the seniors have hung in there and established themselves as leaders,” Hajek said. “It’s all about building for the future. This win on Friday was a big step towards that.”

Hajek said offensive linemen Karl Boylan, Sean Larson, Gabe Heinrich, Albert-Sonnemann and Jackson Lindell had breakthrough performances, along with Neketuk.

“I don’t think anybody gave up at all, which is great,” Boylan said. “Our heart was there more than any other game.”

Washougal, Woodland, Hudson’s Bay and Mark Morris have all claimed a league victory and created a four-way tie for fourth place.

“We’re right where we want to be, playing for that playoff spot,” Hajek said.

“No matter who you are playing, nobody gives it to you,” Boylan said. “You have to work for it.”

The Panthers host Hockinson in their final home game Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“The crowd was great last week. In that environment, and if we improve, anything is possible,” Hajek said. “We just want the kids to show up, play hard and improve.”