LONGVIEW — Washougal knew what it was up against.
In order to solidify a trip to the postseason, the Panthers needed to win on the road against an R.A. Long team with the same aspirations.
“This was a make-it-or-break-it situation,” senior lineman Blake Webb said.
And they treated it as such.
Kade Coons rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns as Washougal withstood a late comeback to defeat R.A. Long 17-15 in a 2A Greater St. Helens League matchup on Friday night in Longview Memorial Stadium. By doing so, the Panthers secured one of four spots in the district playoffs.
“We’re trying to make (playoffs) a tradition at Washougal,” Coons said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of that.”
Had Washougal lost, then its fate would have been in the hands of the results of other teams. Instead, the Panthers booked a return trip to the playoffs.
“They did a great job of continuing to battle,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said. “We never got our head down, we never panicked. … Pretty good senior leadership. They take charge.”
Washougal held a 17-3 lead approaching the fourth quarter. The Panthers previously forced the Lumberjacks into long third downs a denied a fourth-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter.
But R.A. Long found its rhythm in the fourth. With 8:35 to go, the Lumberjacks put together a nine-play, 52-yard scoring drive that found them going for it on fourth-and-8. Owen Enriquez evaded pressure in the pocket and connected with Connor Wallace on the run for the first down. Enriquez scrambled in for a 13-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Then on the first play of the ensuing drive, Washougal fumbled, giving the Lumberjacks a fresh set of downs on the Panther 20-yard line. Parker Reeves ran it in a few plays later to cut the Washougal lead to two with 3:49 to play, but Reeves was tripped short on the two-point conversion.
R.A. Long attempted one final play, when Webb, a senior, chased down Enriquez and yanked him down in the backfield to end of the game.
“He came up with a big play,” Hajek said of Webb, a senior playing his first season of high school football.
Washougal’s early lead was built on the back of Coons. In the second quarter, he strung together runs of 48 and 16 yards — the latter which he scored on — to complete a quick three-play, 63-yard drive to put Washougal up 7-0.
Coons accounted 91 of Washougal’s 107 yards in the first half. All of them came on the ground. He finished with 103 yards on 20 carries, pushing his season totals to 952 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But it was the Panthers’ defense that kept them in the lead for most of the game.
They forced two turnovers on downs and kept the Lumberjacks out of the end zone for three quarters despite being outgained offensively by 55 yards. Reeves led the game with 136 yards rushing on 25 carries, often carrying the load for long stretches of drives, similar to how Washougal runs Coons. Enriquez finished with 93 yards passing and 50 more on the ground
As R.A. Long tried to mount a comeback, the Panthers also aided its drives with costly penalties. The Lumberjacks faced third-and-8 early in the fourth quarter, threw a pass down field that was patted away and Washougal was called for pass interference.
Now, having clinched either the second, third or fourth spot in districts, the Panthers can breathe a sigh of relief.
“I was worried,” Hajek said. “We were able to get some people out the box, but we have to continue to develop the passing game. … we have a lot of underdeveloped receivers who don’t have a lot of experience, so Kade’s got to be the main guy.”
WASHOUGAL 17, R.A. LONG 15
Washougal 7 0 10 0–17
R.A. Long 0 3 0 12–15
W — Kade Coons 16 run (Ryan Stevens kick)
RAL — Julio Magana-Huerta 26 FG
W — Stevens 35 FG
W — Coons 3 run (Stevens kick)
RAL — Owen Enriquez 13 run (kick failed)
RAL — Parker Reeves 4 run (conversion failed)
RUSHING — Washougal: Kade Coons 20-103, Nathan Tofell 5-32, Ryan Stevens 3-9; R.A. Long: Parker Reeves 25-136, Owen Enrique 10-50, Justin Holmdahl 3-0, Anthony Broxton 2-(minus-1).
PASSING — Washougal: Ryan Stevens 4-9-0-109; R.A. Long: Owen Enriquez 12-24-0-93.
RECEIVING — Washougal: Nathan Tofell 1-15, Grant Lewis 1-43, Kade Coons 1-13, Dalton Payne 1-38; R.A. Long: Mark Evans III 2-2, Connor Wallace 4-49, Jacob Thompson 1-(minus-1), Cole Kotera 4-27, Parker Reeves 1-16.