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Washougal football preview: With a strong defense, Panthers aren’t counting out a title run

Team returns leading tackler in Brevan Bea

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: September 3, 2019, 6:06pm

Washougal feels the gap is closing atop the 2A Greater St. Helens League. A league title in grasp? With two-time state champion Hockinson still strong, some may scoff. The Panthers, loaded with experience, are hungry to prove it.

A year after missing the postseason in an injury-riddled 2018, Washougal returns the bulk of its starting lineup.

“We’ve been able to pick up right where we left off,” senior linebacker Brevan Bea said.

Everything starts with Bea, who led the team in tackles last year and was praised by coach Dave Hajek as one of the top two players in the league. “If not the best,” Hajek says.

High school sports fall tab 2019

This article is part of The Columbian's High School Fall Sports 2019 special section, published in print on Sept. 1. View it online.

Bea is a disciplined, hardworking middle linebacker who is so quick to the ball, coaches challenged his teammates to make the tackle before Bea did.

“His attitude, his work ethic. He’s just a football player in his mind,” Hajek said of his senior captain.

The Panthers allowed 23 points per game last year, ranking second in the league, and has improved this offseason after returning eight starters.

“I think our defense is going to be really good this year,” Bea said. “We’re going to be exciting to watch.”

Offensively, the Panthers return all-league quarterback Dalton Payne, who threw for 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He’ll be throwing to fully healthy targets Julian Jones and Jakob Davis, who combined for 1,000 yards receiving despite battling injury last year.

The Panthers are also more experienced and “much improved” in the trenches, Hajek says. All-leaguer Tommy Liston anchors the line.

It all amounts to a promising chance to return to the postseason for the third time in four years.

“We’re optimistic,” Hajek said.

3 Things to Know

— Washougal returns eight starters on each side of the ball.

— Three of the Panthers’ four losses last season were by one score.

— Gus Shelley had a team-high eight sacks last year.

Columbian sports reporter