Just a few plays into the first game of the season after a long bus ride north, the Washougal Panthers pounced on a fumble by the West Seattle Wildcats and scored a touchdown Sept. 1 in Seattle.
Ian Harris scooped up the football and carried it across the goal line to trigger a tidal wave of touchdowns for Washougal. By the end of the first quarter, it was 44-0. And then 54-0 by halftime.
“Sometimes, after a three-and-a-half hour bus ride, you come out flat,” said Washougal head coach Dave Hajek. “Our kids were ready to play and they were excited to play. They all played hard throughout the entire game.”
The Panthers racked up points, left and right. Kade Coons collected 117 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He crossed the goal line on runs of 2, 5 and 24 yards. Grant Lewis caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Stevens, and Stevens also kicked a 21-yard field goal. Nathan Tofell and Brevan Bea added touchdown runs, and Jakob Davis sacked a Wildcat in the end zone for a safety.
“Our guys got a slight taste of what Friday nights are going to be like,” Hajek said. “Hopefully, they stay hungry and want to keep playing hard.”
Hajek said West Seattle is rebuilding with a new coach after 20 seniors graduated from the program. Washougal has been there before. Hajek hopes the Panthers see how far they have come, and that it gives them an incentive to keep improving.
“The big thing for us was, we didn’t make very many mistakes in this game,” Hajek said. “Last year, we made mistakes that cost us in games against West Seattle, Castle Rock, Columbia River and Hockinson. At the end of the year, when we were beating teams like Woodland and R.A. Long, we weren’t making those mistakes.”
Washougal hosts Castle Rock Friday, and Columbia River Friday, Sept. 15, at Fishback Stadium. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
Hajek knows Castle Rock and Columbia River will be more formidable opponents. He tells the Panthers that the games will only get tougher down the road.
“It was a great first game for us, but it’s a long season,” Hajek said. “This can’t be our best game. We have to keep climbing the ladder if we want to get to the top.”