New challenges out of gate for Washougal

Panthers battle West Seattle Friday, at 7 p.m.

No challenge is too big for the Washougal High School football team.

The Panthers are ready to prove that when they host West Seattle Friday, at Fishback Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be great to test ourselves in that first game,” said senior offensive guard and defensive linebacker Jacob Sonneman. “They’re a 3A team. It would be nice to punch the biggest guy in the room and see what happens.”

Washougal head coach Dave Hajek said the Wildcats have most of their starters back this season.

“They are an athletic group. They can throw the ball, run the ball and they’re going to be real solid,” he said. “It will be a good test for us. I think it will be good for our kids to see somebody from out of the area. We’re looking forward to it.”

The Panthers bring in 12 seniors with Sonneman, Tyler Bowlin, Axel Gilmore, Gabe Heinrich, Jake Klackner, Luke Langland, Marcos Martinez, Austin McLaughlin, Tristan Schipull, Jake Shifflett, Justin Snodgrass and Anthony Willis. Joining them are juniors Kade Coons, Grant Lewis, Jackson Lindell, Ryan Stevens and Nathan Tofell.

“It’s fun playing football with these guys. We have a lot of chemistry,” Klackner said. “Knowing each other so well, we can communicate really easily.”

Bowlin said the key is to not get intimidated by going up against a bigger football team before the game even starts. He wants to represent Washougal well.

“We want to make sure nobody out here is scared because that’s what’s going to tear us down,” Bowlin said. “Start with a good name. Finish with a good name. See if we can bring some wins to Washougal.”

The Washougal football players and coaches gave their fans a taste of things to come during a scrimmage game Aug. 26. Sonneman looks forward to carrying the Panther flag out to the 50-yard line on game nights.

“Right at the beginning there, when we run out with the banners, that’s pretty awesome,” Sonneman said. “It’s something that’s unique to our town.”

After West Seattle, Washougal travels to Castle Rock, Sept. 9, before beginning league play at Columbia River, Sept. 16. These are also teams the Panthers haven’t faced in recent seasons. Sonneman is looking forward to the challenge.

“Senior year, it changes something when you realize there’s nothing left after this season,” he said. “It makes you respect this game a whole lot more, and you want these younger players to respect it as much as you do. If you can do that, you can create a strong team.”