Washougal’s cheerleaders eventually found a way to hype up the rest of the crowd.
In the first half of Saturday’s football game against Mark Morris, Washougal’s spirit crew entertained the few dozen parents of senior players who were allowed into Fishback Stadium. With COVID-19 casting uncertainty over each game, Washougal held its Senior Night festivities before their season opener.
During the second half of Washougal’s 33-19 win, Panther cheerleaders journeyed to the chain-link fence some 40 yards behind the south end zone.
There, about 50 Washougal students, parents and other fans watched the game from their vehicles or the sidewalk. Now, they had an extra dose of cheer on a chilly February evening.
COVID-19 protocols either severely limited or eliminated attendance at Saturday’s season-opening games around Southwest Washington.
Many schools followed rules implemented by the state Department of Health limiting total attendance to 200 people. After players, coaches and game officials were accounted for, that left just a few dozen spots for parents in the bleachers.
But that didn’t stop some determined fans from watching the action.
At Woodland High, parents and students watched from the parking lot behind the east end zone. That was in addition to 66 people allowed into the stadium. Woodland’s senior players were allowed to distribute three tickets; juniors two; sophomores and freshman one.
Even though there were two Trico League games played at Seton Catholic on Saturday, each game handled spectators differently.
The first game between Castle Rock and Goldendale was hosted by Goldendale, which opted not to permit spectators inside the field gates.
So fans lined up behind the chain-link fence beyond the east end zone to watch the game.
In the second game between Columbia-White Salmon and Seton Catholic, host Seton did allow some fans inside the field gates, while others lined up beyond the east end zone.
No fans were allowed into either game at Kiggins Bowl, meaning those interested in La Center vs. Fort Vancouver or Ridgefield vs. Hudson’s Bay had to watch a livestream of the game on YouTube or cable access.
Can I kick it? Maybe not
Crowd policies weren’t all that differed between Saturday’s games.
In some instances, the kicking game was eliminated completely.
Instead of kickoffs, each drive started at the 30 yard line.
Instead of punts, the ball was advanced 30 yards downfield, where the opposing team started its next drive.
Instead of kicked extra points, each team was required to go for two.
Policies differed from game to game, even within the same league. Both 1A Trico games at Seton Catholic had a full kicking game, but La Center vs. Fort Vancouver used no kicks due to a lack of full-contact practices prior to Saturday.
In the 2A Greater St. Helens League, Ridgefield vs. Hudson’s Bay chose not to kick. Woodland vs. Columbia River eliminated kickoffs and punts, but let teams kick extra points. Washougal vs. Mark Morris used a full kicking game.
Odd, but successful combo
Midway through the second quarter of Saturday’s 22-13 defeat to Columbia River, a Woodland assistant told head coach Mike Woodward: “Hey, I think we should throw a pass here.”
“No I don’t think it’s time yet,” Woodward replied.
“That’s when it first set in that this was real, that we were going to stick with this,'” Woodward explained after the game.
Woodward, who has returned for a second stint as the Beavers’ coach, is known for his high-octane shotgun spread offense. It was revolutionary when he used it at Mountain View in the early 2000s. It broke school records when Tyler Flanagan and Wyatt Harsh headed the offense from 2016-18.
On Saturday, the Beavers didn’t attempt a pass until the 4:19 mark of the second quarter, after 23 straight runs. They also used the entire playclock on every snap, another deviation from Woodward’s usual quick pace.
The reason behind the switch in philosophy is simply personnel. At quarterback is JJ Fuerst. He stands 5-foot-6, 140 pounds. He is a two-time state wrestling participant at 126 pounds. On Saturday, he proved he’s also more than capable of running an offense. He ran for 112 yards and a score on 27 carries. He also went 4 of 5 for 54 yards in the air.
“I thought the way he controlled the game is what I was most impressed with,” Woodward said. “He had good control out there, good leadership and he’s tough as nails.”
Fuerst was always the plan at quarterback this season. And while he doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical quarterback in a Woodward-led scheme, the two are adapting. After one week, there’s reason enough to believe this unusual combination can work.
A calculated risk
Even though Seton Catholic only needed one point to beat Columbia-White Salmon in overtime, first-year coach Dennis Herling opted to go for two.
And it worked, with Elijah Volk taking a pass in the flat and powering into the end zone for a 28-26 victory.
Dennis Herling borrowed an idea from one of his fellow coaches, a little by strategy, a little by necessity.
“I stole this from Coach (Mike) Peck over at Prairie,” Herling said. “We don’t kick PATs because we really don’t have a kicker. We have guys who could potentially do it, but you go analytics on that, our two-point conversion (play) would be much more successful on PATs.”
The Cougars were 2 for 4 Saturday on two-point conversions. By contrast, Columbia-White Salmon kicked the ball after its four touchdowns, also going 2 for 4.
The net result was 28 points for Seton, 26 for Columbia-White Salmon.