The Washougal High School football players wanted this first win of the season for their fans, coaches and for themselves.
Despite about a dozen yellow flags thrown in their direction, the Panthers persevered and walked off the field at Fishback Stadium with a hard fought 24-10 victory against Mark Morris Friday.
“It’s hard to dedicate this victory to any one person on the team. The whole team persevered,” said senior lineman Gabe Heinrich. “These guys, they truly are my brothers. And to our coaches, we’re their sons. I’m so proud of everybody.”
Jake Klackner finished the game with two big touchdowns. The senior wide receiver caught a 5-yard pass in the end zone from junior quarterback Ryan Stevens on the first drive for Washougal. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter on defense, Klackner dove on a fumbled snap that bounced back into the end zone to help the Panthers sink their teeth into the victory.
“I was on a blitz and I saw the ball go through his legs. I knew I had to get on it and I did.” Klackner said. “That was awesome. That sealed the game and everyone was hyped. It was a good feeling.”
Mark Morris tied the score at 7 before the end of the first quarter. The Monarchs earned a key first down on fourth-and-11 and marched into the end zone to score a touchdown.
Washougal reclaimed the lead in the second quarter. Tyler Bowlin snagged a 31-yard pass from Stevens to set up Marcos Martinez for a 5-yard run across the goal line for a touchdown.
“I love getting touchdowns,” he said. “I just love supporting my team and helping us win.”
Martinez also forced a fumble on defense and Mason Armstrong recovered the ball for the Panthers.
“As soon as I hit him, I went for the ball and just ripped it out of his arms,” Martinez said.
Mark Morris threatened to tie the score again before halftime until Klackner and Heinrich sacked the quarterback for a loss of eight yards with 41 seconds left on the clock. Washougal needed one more stop. Freshman Brevan Bea followed the example of his seniors and brought down the quarterback for a loss of three yards.
Washougal got the ball back on downs, took a knee and went into the locker room with a seven-point advantage. The third quarter turned sloppy. Both teams had touchdowns called back for penalties. The Panthers emerged from the chaos clinging to a 14-10 lead.
A six-minute drive into the fourth quarter helped Washougal gain some breathing room. Martinez plowed through the Monarchs and earned three first downs. Nathan Tofell also grabbed a 19-yard pass, but penalties kept pulling the Panthers back. Stevens made the drive count with a 31-yard field goal to put Washougal back up by seven points.
“We’re happy the kids were able to overcome some of their own mistakes and come out with the victory,” said head coach Dave Hajek. “It was a tough game. In some regards, we kept them in the game. We could have scored more touchdowns, but we hurt ourselves with those penalties.
“We lost our focus quite a bit tonight. We lost our composure a couple of times tonight. That’s on me as a coach to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he added. “We’ll be working on trying to fix those problems this week.”
Washougal hosts Ridgefield in the homecoming football game Friday, at 7 p.m., at Fishback Stadium.
Hajek said these Panthers are a reflection of their parents, coaches and community.
“We have to remember what it means to be a Washougal football player and what it means to be a member of this community,” he said. “We have great people in Washougal. People that are hard working, people that work for their families, that work for the community and people that work to make each other better. That’s what we have to do.
“We are very fortunate we have great kids,” Hajek added. “Any mistakes they make as a team, I know they are hard enough workers to fix those mistakes.”