Washougal won a big football game for its community on Homecoming night Friday, at Fishback Stadium.
“The best part of the game was the fact that the kids were able to keep their composure and continue to fight through adversity,” said head coach Dave Hajek. “At any time they could have given up, but they kept fighting and they kept fighting hard.”
Marcos Martinez scored his second touchdown of the second half to give the Panthers a six-point lead with 48 seconds left on the clock in the final quarter.
“My team relied on me to deliver those touchdowns. I had to get them in,” Martinez said. “It was great to be able to do that in front of the fans and my family. I had a lot of relatives who came to the game to watch me play.”
Ridgefield got to the Washougal 26-yard line and took one last shot at the end zone. Kade Coons intercepted the pass and the Panthers defeated the Spudders 20-14.
“I just followed the ball and it was an easy pick for me,” Coons said. “I’ve heard people say this was the best game they have ever been to at Washougal. That means a lot to us.”
Neither team could get anything going offensively out of the gate. Washougal quarterback Ryan Stevens broke through the dam first with seven minutes left in the second quarter. He crossed the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 7-0 advantage at halftime.
Ridgefield scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to gain control. Hajek said Washougal turned the tide by throwing the ball.
“I told the kids, you don’t want to lose Homecoming. It makes for a bad weekend,” Hajek said. “They had to notch up a little bit and play harder, and they were able to do that.”
Stevens completed 14 passes for 226 yards, Tyler Bowlin made nine catches for 114 yards and Coons had eight snags for 64 yards.
“Passing and rushing have an equal share,” Bowlin said. “When one’s not working, you got to rely on the other. That’s what was working for us.”
The Panthers were ferocious on defense. Nathan Tofell notched 30 tackles and 14 assists, Brevan Bea earned 27 tackles and 13 assists, Martinez collected 26 tackles and 10 assists and Jacob Sonneman finished with 23 tackles and 10 assists. Bowlin picked off two passes on defense to go along with 15 tackles and seven assists. Jake Klackner, Austin McLaughlin and Martinez also had interceptions.
“We definitely fought hard. That was the key to the win,” Bowlin said. “And the atmopshere. Not only was it a big game for the team, but it was a big game for the crowd. They were all there praying for a win and we wanted to send them home happy. It’s all about the fans in the end.”
Martinez tied the score at 14 on a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. It would stay that way until the final minutes of the game. Washougal took advantage of a pass interference call, and then Martinez reached the end zone again on a 2-yard rush behind his bulldozing linemen.
“Gabe Heinrich and Jacob Sonneman lifted me up in the air,” Martinez said. “It was a great feeling, especially after losing to Ridgefield last year.”
Hajek was thrilled to see the Panthers come through in the clutch. Washougal heads to Hockinson Friday, before wrapping up league against Woodland and R.A. Long at home.
“It feels great to get a win for the community on a night like that,” Hajek said. “We’re 2-1 in league and trying to get in position for the playoffs. It’s all about getting better every week.”