WASHOUGAL — Whether it’s playing linebacker, raising cattle or choosing to serve his country after high school, hard work comes in the same form for Garrett Mansfield.
So, what does hard work mean to Washougal High’s three-time all-league middle linebacker on a team back in the Class 2A football state playoffs?
“Hard work means putting in your all,” Mansfield said, “until your goal is complete.”
Mansfield’s goals in football are threefold, and two have been accomplished the past two weeks. One, capturing the 2A Greater St. Helens League title with an undefeated league season. Two, winning a home playoff game to reach the state playoffs for the second time in four seasons.
And three? Well, that box is still unchecked. For now, anyway.
“The third part,” the senior said, “is the state finals.”
The Panthers (9-1) face Highline of Burien (9-1) to kickoff their state playoff run at 7 p.m. Friday at Highline Memorial Stadium in a first-round game.
Win, and Washougal likely faces top-seeded Lynden in next week’s state quarterfinal. That’s the same team that ended Washougal’s 2019 season in the state quarterfinals when Mansfield and a handful of other current seniors played sparingly on varsity as ninth graders.
Since then, Mansfield has been a mainstay at linebacker and a driver of the defense. To date, Mansfield has racked up team-high 111 tackles this season.
Mansfield is a Washougal guy through and through and knows the success of this year’s football program goes further than the current Panthers.
After last week’s 38-34 district crossover win against Shelton — a game in which Mansfield had 18 tackles — the senior was approached postgame by a number of Washougal alumni. They praised players’ efforts not only on that victory, but what they’ve accomplished so far in 2022. That game also was Washougal’s first home playoff game since 1994.
The alumni’s message? Keep the Washougal dream alive, Mansfield said.
“It feels amazing when people come down and talk to me like that,” he said.
It’s no surprise to see Mansfield thrive at linebacker, head coach Dave Hajek said. There’s a number of similarities the coach sees in Mansfield from a former recent Washougal all-state linebacker, Brevan Bea, a cousin of Mansfield. Perhaps it’s no coincidence Mansfield filled Bea’s position at middle linebacker after Bea’s final season in 2019.
“He’s got a little bit of that edge to him, for sure,” Hajek said of Mansfield, “and he does all the little things to be good.”
In fact, Mansfield learned the ropes of how to play linebacker from Bea. What makes a good linebacker, Mansfield said, starts by “flowing to the ball, making big plays when it matters, and being a good leader.”
“As I’ve grown, I see a lot of Brevan in how I play,” Mansfield said.
But Mansfield is more than a football player. Away from football, he raises cattle and prepares them for show day at local county fairs annually. Currently, he’s raising a 700-pound steer he named Hershey. While on the surface raising livestock and playing football may not go hand in hand, Mansfield thinks otherwise.
And it goes back to hard work.
“It takes a lot of work to tame steers,” he said.
Mansfield also is realistic and knows his football career is winding down. After high school, he plans to join the United States Marine Corp, continuing a long-standing tradition of immediate and extended family members serving their country.
But before then, like his multifaceted hard-working mindset, Mansfield wants to check off one final box on his list of goals — just not for a few weeks.
“It’s amazing,” Mansfield said about reaching the state playoffs. “This year to put in all the work all summer, all regular season, and to finally get the postseason and show what Washougal can do, and what Washougal is made of. It feels amazing.”