When the Washougal High School (WHS) football team returns to action against Lynden High School (LHS) on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Bellingham, it will have a chance to advance to the state tournament semifinal round, a feat that’s happened only once in school history, in 1974.
The resilient Panthers, seeded 11th in the 16-team 2A state tournament, had their mettle tested but rallied for a 14-13 win over sixth-seeded Clarkston High School (CHS) in a first-round state tournament game Nov. 16 in Clarkston.
“It was just awesome, super emotional,” said senior wide receiver Jakob Davis. “I mean, to go this far? None of us have ever gone this far in the playoffs.”
The Lions (8-2), seeded third, beat Othello High School 41-14 on Nov. 16 in a first-round state tournament game.
“They are really good,” said WHS coach Dave Hajek. “At this point in the season everyone is really good.”
WHS last played LHS on Nov. 9, 1974, in a state tournament quarterfinal contest. The Panthers won 21-14 before losing to Raymond High School 16-10 in the semifinals.
“There was a no-call on a pass interference right at the end (of the Raymond game),” said Jon Frederich, the quarterback of the 1974 WHS squad. “It might have been 17-16. That one still hurts.”
Halftime speech leads to comeback
After a seven-hour bus ride to Clarkston, WHS committed three turnovers in the first half that led to two Bantams touchdowns, and at halftime the Panthers were down 13-0.
“The long trip may have had something to do with the mistakes,” said senior Brevan Bea, “but at the same time we really just didn’t show up.”
But during the break, the Panthers found their confidence.
“We had a good halftime speech from the coaches, and I feel that really motivated us to give us the thought that this game really isn’t over,” Davis said.
The Panthers started the second half with a drive that ended with quarterback Dalton Payne connecting with Bea on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
“The field was slippery, so I couldn’t run as fast as I normally do, and honestly I didn’t think Dalton was going to throw it to me,” Bea said, “but when I turned and saw the ball, I just dove for it and ended up catching it, and I was like, ‘Yes, we really needed that.'”
The WHS defense shut down CHS in the second half, and late in the fourth quarter the Panthers drove the ball to the Bantams’ 2-yard line. After two unsuccessful rushing attempts by Peter Boylan, Hajek called for a ‘wildcat’ play, and Bea replaced Payne at quarterback.
The resulting play won the game for WHS in controversial fashion.
“Right when Brevan hiked the ball, the whitehat (official) blew his whistle during the play, and when it all happened simultaneously everyone stopped and looked at the official, including Brevan, and we’re all yelling, “‘Run,'” Hajek said.
Bea listened to his coaches and plowed through the defense, diving across the goal line for a touchdown. The officials conversed after the play and allowed the touchdown to stand, much to the chagrin of the Bantams and their fans.
“I didn’t have patience and was asking the ref to back up so I could hike the ball,” Bea said. “He said ‘No, just wait a bit.’ I tried three times and he kept telling me ‘No,’ and then he backed up and told me, ‘Go for it.’ I hiked it and heard the whistle and stopped and said ‘What’s the whistle for?’ and the ref looked at me funny. That’s when I heard (Hajek) yell ‘Run.'”
Boylan’s extra point kick gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead with less than one minute to play. CHS then started moving the ball, hoping to get into field-goal territory, but WHS junior Theodosy Berry intercepted a pass to secure the historic victory.
Players and coaches said the WHS supporters in attendance were appreciated.
“It’s exciting,” Hajek said. “I’ll tell you, this community in Washougal is tremendous. We had as many fans as they (Clarkston) did.”
“Boy, did they (the crowd) bring it,” Bea said. “I mean, there were times when our crowd was so loud you couldn’t even hear on the field. I want to thank each and every one of them.”