Fort Vancouver tried to take this football game away from Washougal, but the Panthers held the line and walked out of Kiggins Bowl with a 28-27 victory Friday.
“I’ve never been so into a game,” said senior running back Zack Neketuk. “When it came down to the wire and we stopped them, it was crazy.”
Neketuk and Kade Coons scored touchdowns in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 28-14 advantage. Fort Vancouver came back with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Trappers could have tied the score on an extra-point kick, but decided to run for two points instead.
T.J. Willingham already ran in three touchdowns for Fort Vancouver. The Trappers went to Willingham again for the 2-point conversion, but the Panthers prevented him from getting into the end zone to remain in the lead by one point.
“If it works, it’s a great play,” said Washougal head coach Dave Hajek. “We had to overcome a lot of obstacles to win this game. It’s great for our kids to be able to do that. They didn’t quit and they didn’t roll over. They just kept fighting.”
Coons caught a 41-yard touchdown pass by Grant Lewis in the first quarter. Grayden Economides snagged a 39-yard touchdown pass from Lewis in the second quarter. Fort Vancouver tied the score at 14-14 before halftime.
The Panthers couldn’t get anything going on their first drive of the third quarter and punted away. Daniel Davis ripped the ball out of the returner’s hands to give Washougal a golden opportunity to gain the lead. Coons did so on a 9-yard touchdown run.
“I literally took it right from him. I wrapped him up and grabbed the ball,” Davis said. “It gave us momentum. We scored on that next possession and took the lead. It was huge.”
Neketuk had runs for 43 and 31 yards that led to touchdowns for the Panthers. He finished with 118 yards rushing and a 2-yard smash into the end zone.
“I’m a fullback. Butting heads is what I’m supposed to do,” Neketuk said. “When I break loose, that’s a bonus. I had a lot of fun tonight.”
Coons added 71 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s got the speed. I’ve got the brawn,” Neketuk said. “We both fight for those yards.”
Davis forced another fumble on the final possession of the game for Fort Vancouver. Jake Klackner recovered the football to secure the non-league victory for Washougal.
“It wasn’t the biggest victory because it didn’t affect our playoff hunt, but getting this win gives us confidence going into a game we need to win,” Davis said.
Washougal battles Mark Morris Friday, at Longview Memorial Stadium. If the Panthers win, there will be a three-way tie for the final playoff spot between Washougal, Mark Morris and Woodland. Hudson’s Bay could also get into that mix if it beats Ridgefield.
“Our season is on the line,” Davis said. “This next game means everything.”