WASHOUGAL — Washougal High senior linebacker Brevan Bea, a driver of the Panthers’ defense for four years, is still finalizing a long-term game plan.
He wouldn’t mind piloting planes post-football, which seems fitting for a hard-hitting, ball-hawking middle linebacker who’s done nothing but fly at opposing offenses since freshman year.
At Senior Night festivities last week, Washougal’s public-address announcer read Bea’s pre-game ceremony statement of future goals that included becoming a professional fisherman.
“That got a lot of people to laugh,” Bea said.
Bea’s fun-loving sense of humor shifted into a more serious tone when divulging into immediate, short-term goals.
It’s no surprise Friday night’s state preliminary round playoff football game tops the list because, more than anything, Bea and the Panthers (5-4 overall) believe this is their best chance to do what no Washougal team has done since 1999: reach the state playoffs.
And they’re facing a familiar opponent — an 8-1 W.F. West squad — at 7 p.m. Friday in Chehalis. It’s the same team Washougal lost to 23-7 in Week 4 when the Panthers didn’t have quarterback Dalton Payne and later lost Peter Boylan in-game.
Bea describes a four-year career with this senior class as a rollercoaster ride he hopes has more twists and turns after Friday night.
Because a win means they’ll be just the third Washougal team to reach the state playoffs in program history, they control their fate. And as a team captain, Bea’s message is simple: limit mistakes, but most importantly, have fun.
“Seeing how far we can make it in the playoffs this year is the most rewarding thing,” Bea said. “Playing with these guys for four years have been fun. We put ourselves in a good spot to where we can go far and with this team, I believe we can.”
Bea understands the magnitude of Friday’s game. Before he and the senior class arrived in 2016, the program hadn’t reached the playoffs in nine years with just two state playoff appearances in school history (1974, 1999).
The Week 10 playoff stage isn’t new, though. Washougal is in the state preliminary round for the third time in four years. In those four years, a consistent staple at Washougal is Bea as a full-time defensive starter.
Head coach Dave Hajek had good reason to put Bea at linebacker freshman year. Not out of necessity, but rather Bea earned it back in spring ball of 2016 before the teen played a first varsity snap.
For safety reasons, the coach has a strict rule that no incoming ninth graders face varsity players during spring ball hitting drills. However, Bea was the exception after he stunned coaches with a pancake block (leaving a defensive player flat on their back) on a returning starter and incoming senior.
How many 14-year-olds can handle the physicality from an upperclassman?
“He could,” Hajek said of Bea, “and he was fine.”
Since then, Bea is a self-described punching bag. When not delivering hits, he absorbs them as a dual-threat tailback and slot receiver.
This season marks consecutive years leading Washougal in solo and total tackles. He has 88 solo tackles and five forced fumbles through nine games. On offense, he is Payne’s primary target with a team-best 578 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
“I come home with lots of bruises,” he said. “On offense, I try to get as many yards as I can, and defensively, I make sure they don’t get a yard.”
Hajek is in his third stint as Washougal’s head football coach, and he puts Bea in elite company as one of the program’s all-time bests. The coach draws Bea’s comparisons to Nathan Shepard, a four-year starter and two-time all-state tailback in the mid-1990s who rushed for more than 5,000 career yards.
“He’s that, but on the defensive side,” Hajek said.
When dissecting gamefilm from Washougal’s first go-around with W.F. West in late September, Bea nit-picks at preventable mistakes made that he takes personally.
Bea played quarterback that game for the injured Payne and scored the team’s lone touchdown on a 1-yard run.
He and the Panthers hope Friday’s outcome is different, and should it be, will prevail in their short-term goal that could make a long-term effect at Washougal.
Said Bea: “We want that a lot around here.”