A bitter cold wind swept through Civic Stadium in Bellingham prior to kickoff, but the Washougal High School (WHS) football team could not have been hotter to start its 2A state quarterfinal game against Lynden High School (LHS) on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The 11th-seeded Panthers, who beat Clarkston High School on Nov. 16 in a state tournament first-round game, took a 14-0 lead over the No. 3 Lions in the first quarter.
“We just came out firing with a lot of energy,” said WHS senior Jakob Davis. “I don’t think they (Lynden) thought we could do something like that.”
The Panthers took a 26-21 lead into the fourth quarter, but were unable to hold on as LHS scored a late touchdown and went on to a 29-26 victory to end WHS’ season.
“We could have easily won that game, but it didn’t go our way,” Panthers quarterback Dalton Payne said, “but I’m so proud of our guys. I’ll never forget this game. It’s probably the best game I’ve ever played, Jakob’s ever played, Brevan (Bea has) ever played, Julien (Jones has) ever played. I mean, everyone on the team had the game of their lives.”
Seniors leave legacy
After the game, WHS coach Dave Hajek thanked his seniors for leaving a legacy that younger players can follow.
WHS won seven of its 12 games, including its first state playoff victory since 1974.
“I think it (our playoff run) puts the team in a position to succeed because the younger guys now know what it’s like to be in that type of environment and in those winning situations,” Davis said. “I feel they will just grow and get better in the coming years.”
A tough two minutes
Late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers moved the ball down to the Lions’ 10-yard line, looking to ice the game with another touchdown. However, LHS stripped the ball away from Bea and recovered the fumble.
The Lions took possession, but still needed a long touchdown drive to win, and the clock was ticking.
“They started to make their drive and we got them into two different fourth-down situations where all we had to do was stop them and then just knee the ball,” Bea said, “but they ended up completing both fourth downs, which led to a touchdown.”
Panthers’ offense gains momentum early
Davis scored both of the Panthers’ first-quarter touchdowns, catching passes from Payne, who ended the game with four scoring strikes.
“At that point we knew it was our game to win,” said Bea, who had eight catches for 95 yards and a third-quarter touchdown, plus 15 tackles on defense. “I mean, that’s the best we’ve played in any game offensively.”
WHS continued to move the ball for the rest of the first half.
“After Jakob scored the first two touchdowns, they (Lynden) doubled Jacob and left senior Judson Mansfield one-on-one with a smaller guy, so we started going his way,” Payne said.
Late in the second quarter, Mansfield helped get the Panthers into the red zone, and Jones finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown reception to give WHS a 20-14 lead.
In the third quarter, Bea caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Panthers a 26-21 lead.
Historic game attracts WHS alumni
The quarterfinal clash attracted not only a big group of WHS students and parents, but alumni from near and far.
“It was amazing,” Bea said. “Most of the game you couldn’t hear anything. Everyone was just screaming so loud. It was an amazing experience.”
The experience was also extra special for fans who came to Bellingham for the game. Brad Brackett, a 1983 WHS graduate and three-year starting running back, made the trip from his home in the Seattle area.
“The fans were all in it,” Brackett said. “After all the years that have passed by, to hear all the cheers for Washougal brought me back to my youth.”
Other WHS alumni, including Tom Martin joined the sea of parents and students and helped bring the buzz of the game to other friends who were keeping track of the game through social media.