WASHOUGAL — The Prairie Falcons found the right recipe for a 2-0 start on Friday.
It consisted of a little bit of resiliency, a lot of tough second-half defense and a one-handed grab.
Oh, and throw in a dash help from the officiating crew.
A.J. Dixson was again the catalyst for the Falcons, rushing for 153 yards and passing for 252 as the Falcons rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Washougal 28-21 in a non-league game Friday.
“It’s been a while since Prairie has been 2-0,” Prairie coach Mike Peck said. “But the kids bought into our program. They spent the summer working their butts off. And now these two wins are validation for all that hard work.”
Things weren’t going the Falcons way in the first half when Brevan Bea intercepted a Dixson pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. That was followed by Jakob Davis’ 67-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Payne that gave Washougal a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
“The coaches kept telling the leadership on the team to keep motivating each other,” Dixson said. “‘ We’re going to come back. We’re going to get in this. Our offense is going to do something.’ And our defense made great stops, and we got it.”
But the Falcons responded by cutting the deficit to 21-14 on their next drive with Dixson scoring from 1 yard out with 4:31 left in the quarter.
Prairie would cut it to 21-20 when Dixson hit Nolan Mickenham with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter, after a Mickenham interception in the end zone halted a Washougal drive, Zeke Dixson gave Prairie a big jolt with his one-handed catch for a 38-yard gain to the Washougal 29, igniting the Prairie bench.
“They did a good job of covering me,” Zeke Dixson said. “(The defender) did a good job all the way up to the end. He grabbed my arm. He had one arm. So I just stuck the other out and grabbed it.”
Dixson finished with four catches for 125 yards.
It set up Mickenham’s second touchdown reception, an 8-yarder, which Prairie up 28-21 with 4:29 left in the third quarter.
Then the defense came up big, shutting out the Panthers in the second half. Devante Clayton had two sacks.
The Falcons also got a little boost from the officials.
Washougal was driving in the final three minutes when Bea gave the Panthers first-and-10 at the Prairie 32.
Mickenham then intercepted a pass at the 3, apparently ending Washougal’s drive. But Prairie was flagged for defensive holding, nullifying the interception. After the play, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called against Washougal.
In the confusion over where the line of scrimmage should be, the down marker was inexplicably set to third down when play resumed. Prairie’s defense came up with another sack and then an incompletion to seal the win.
“2-0 — surprising,” Zeke Dixson said with a grin. “You don’t hear that about Prairie. Surprising.”