Panther football family steps up

Washougal hosts Hockinson in a battle of 5-0 teams

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Kade Coons finds a gap and then runs free for Washougal Friday, at Ridgefield High School. Coons rushed for 197 yards and scored two touchdowns, helping the Panthers defeat the Spudders 34-14.

After giving up a touchdown on the first drive, the Washougal High School football team scored 34 unanswered points in a 34-14 victory at Ridgefield Friday.

“It’s time to step up. If we want to compete against a team like Hockinson, we have to be able to hold our ground,” said senior linebacker Grant Lewis. “We stepped up and we were ready to play in that second half and hold our ground. It’s pretty cool when you see a team come together like that.”

The Panthers turned shock and heartbreak into determination, after losing one of their own to a season-ending injury. Brevan Bea turned a short pass into a 52-yard gain, but he got tackled from behind and was down in pain for several minutes.

“It was pretty scary seeing a kid I grew up with on the ground tearing up and crying and screaming,” said senior running back Kade Coons.

Bea left the game in a cast and on crutches. He had surgery to repair a broken left tibia and fibula.

“He’s such a hard fighting player on offense and defense,” head coach Dave Hajek told his other players after Bea’s injury. “You have to rally around him right now and finish it off for Bea.”

That message to the players was clear.

“After Brevan went down, it took us a couple of plays to get our heads right again,” said senior quarterback Ryan Stevens. “But then, after that, it was like, ‘We’re going to do this for Brevan,’ because he’s one of our best friends.”

“Our motto here is, ‘We’re a brotherhood. Next man up,'” Lewis said. “We’re all about having each other’s back and playing as a family.”

Washougal had four offensive linemen sidelined by injuries coming into this game. Hajek said senior Nick Oakes and sophomore Tommy Liston stepped up to play those positions, along with their regular assignments on defense.

Stevens collected 271 passing yards and three touchdowns, one through the air and two on the ground. Coons rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Max Churchman caught a tipped pass by a defender and turned into a 42-yard gain for the Panthers. Stevens then scored on a 14-yard scramble across the goal line to give Washougal a 20-6 lead at halftime.

Coons had a 62-yard breakaway and a 16-yard touchdown run for the Panthers to start the third quarter. Washougal then recovered a fumble on defense. After Lewis snagged a 36-yard pass, Stevens and Jakob Davis hooked up on a 56-yard touchdown pass to give the Panthers a 34-6 lead late in the third quarter.

“We missed the deep ball a lot against Columbia River and Mark Morris,” Stevens said. “We just repped it over and over and over in practice. I had one of the best weeks I’ve had passing in a long time, so I felt really confident coming into this game.”

Although Davis is just a sophomore, Stevens said he has the size and speed to do some big things in the next few years.

“We had that last year with Tyler Bowlin. After he graduated, I wondered who’s going to be that guy you throw to and see if he can come down with it, and that’s Jakob,” Stevens said.

Lewis caught a few first downs that led to points for Washougal. He also played tough on defense.

“I’m going to do whatever the coaches tell me to do,” Lewis said. “If they want me to guard, go out for a pass or play defense, I’ll be there. I want to just play and provide for this team.”

The stage is set for a big homecoming football game at Fishback Stadium Friday. Washougal and Hockinson are both 5-0 and will be playing for sole-possession of first place in the 2A Greater St. Helens League. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“I hope it’s packed,” Hajek said. “I hope everyone in Washougal comes out to support these kids and what they’ve done so far.”