Upperclassmen leading WHS football team

Panthers to take on 2-time defending state champion Hawks

Washougal High School senior Jakob Davis catches a pass during a recent practice session. Davis caught three touchdown passes in the Panthers' 40-7 win against Mark Morris High School on Oct. 18. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Pictures of current seniors as younger children adorn the Washougal High School football locker room. "Most of us have been playing football together since at least sixth grade," senior Judson Mansfield said. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School senior quarterback Dalton Payne (left) works on technique with assistant coach Bill Gladden (center) in preparation for the Panthers' Oct. 25 showdown against Hockinson High School. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School football coach Dave Hajek (right) gives words of wisdom to some of his skill players during a practice session on Monday, Oct. 21. "I think we are just as talented as Hockinson, and I think if we execute we can pull this game off," he said about his team's Oct. 25 game against Hockinson High School.

Washougal High School senior Brevan Bea works on his route running during a practice session on Monday, Oct. 21. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

There’s something really good going on with the Washougal High School (WHS) football team, according to senior receiver Jacob Davis.

“We’ve been playing football together since sixth grade and we’ve got a real camaraderie going on here,” said Davis, fresh off a three-touchdown performance in the Panthers’ 40-7 win over Mark Morris High School on Friday, Oct. 18. “But it all starts with us, the seniors.”

On Friday, Oct. 25, WHS has a chance to enter the spotlight when it takes on two-time defending 2A state champion Hockinson High School (HHS). If WHS (4-3 overall, 3-1 2A Greater St. Helens League) beats the Hawks (6-1, 4-0), it will move into a three-way first-place tie with HHS and Ridgefield High School (RHS).

The Panthers’ only league loss was to the Spudders on Oct. 4. WHS’ two starting running backs didn’t play in that game as junior Peter Boylan was serving a one-game suspension while senior Brevan Bea departed with a back injury.

“My back feels good now,” Bea said. “I mean, that Ridgefield game, we really should have won, and we didn’t come out to play.”

The Panthers’ seniors say they learned a lot from that loss and started to pull together. For them, the game against HHS represents a shot at redemption.

“After that (Ridgefield) game we started to minimize our penalties and started playing together more as a team instead of thinking about ourselves,” senior Julien Jones said.

Healthy and focused

Dealing with injuries is a big part of football, something Bea, Davis and Jones know all too well after being forced to sit out past games against the Hawks.

“Last year we were missing Julien and Jacob,” said Panthers coach Dave Hajek. “The year before that we were missing Brevan and Jacob, so (HHS hasn’t) had our best. This year we will have our best team.”

Excellent quarterback play has also helped WHS this season as senior Dalton Payne has thrown for 1,505 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“He’s had a great year, probably the best year we’ve ever had a quarterback have in Washougal,” Hajek said.

The only quarterback in the league with more touchdown passes than Payne is the Hawks’ Levi Crum, who has thrown for 1,466 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Payne said any personal success comes from the hard work his teammates and friends are putting in this year.

“We’ve come a long way,” Payne said. “We worked hard in the offseason, and each week we are focused on getting better. We need to all come out to play Friday. Whoever plays harder will win.”