Dream season for Washougal

Panthers in playoff position for the first time in nine years

Dreams came true for the Washougal High School football players Friday night.

After defeating R.A. Long 27-19 in front of hometown fans at Fishback Stadium, the Panthers finished with a 4-2 league record and are in position to go to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“We had to win these last two home games after losing to Hockinson. It was do or die for us, and that provided a lot of fuel for our run here,” said senior lineman Jacob Sonneman. “We have a great fan base. They filled the place for all five home games. I can’t be more proud of this community and this team.”

Quarterback Ryan Stevens had a hand and foot in scoring all 27 points for Washougal. He kicked a 30-yard field goal after the Panthers recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff. Continuous runs by Kade Coons set Stevens up for two carries across the goal line for touchdowns. Coons finished the game with 175 rushing yards.

“We knew it was going to be like last week. Just run the ball,” Stevens said. “Whoever fought the hardest in the trenches was going to win the game.”

Sonneman and Gabe Heinrich kept smashing on offense and defense. Heinrich finished with 10 tackles and three sacks. He’s proud of the way the Panthers represented Washougal all season long.

“Tackling the quarterback on fourth down, there’s no better feeling in the world,” Heinrich said. “No matter what anyone does, or how hard we mess up, we don’t start pointing fingers and getting in each other’s faces. We’re supportive and we just help each other out.”

Washougal led 17-9 at halftime. Stevens nailed a 27-yard field goal on the first drive of the third quarter. R.A. Long kicked another field goal to stay within eight points. Tyler Bowlin caught a short pass from Stevens and turned it into a 35-yard touchdown.

“The whole game, I was thinking, ‘Coach, if you give me the ball, I’ll give you a touchdown,'” Bowlin said. “I talked to Ryan before the game and told him the same thing. I said, ‘You give me the ball, I’ll give you a touchdown.’ And I wanted to hold myself to that word.”

Bowlin then intercepted a pass on the next defensive series for the Panthers. He couldn’t tell how high he got off the ground, but it felt like he was flying.

“This whole game with the lead and with my boys, it felt like you were flying,” Bowlin said.

R.A. Long scored a touchdown and recovered an on-side kick for one more opportunity to tie the score in the final minute of the game. Washougal sealed the deal on defense by forcing four straight incomplete passes.

“It’s not a team win, it’s a community win,” Bowlin said. “We’ve had our downs and we’ve had our arguments and such, but through it all, we’re always brothers. There’s nothing we can’t accomplish out there.”

The Panthers will not have to travel to Rainier High School Friday. The Mountaineers are going to forfeit the game after injuries and other factors have limited them to 14 players.

Washougal will likely earn the No. 3 seed into the playoffs, but will have to wait and see how Friday’s league games play out.