BURIEN — The Washougal Panthers walked off the field at Highline Memorial Stadium on Friday night with bruised bodies and heavy hearts.
Moments after watching their teammate taken off the field on a stretcher, the Panthers made a pivotal error that allowed Highline to run out the clock and secure a 30-27 win in a Class 2A state first-round game.
“They played a different type of football than what we are used,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said of Highline’s physical play. “But our kids played hard. They battled. I was really impressed with that. But we made mistakes that cost us.”
Highline’s Adam Estrada came up with the Pirates’ second interception — the third turnover they forced on the night — with 7:20 to play.
Highline was able to convert a key first down and chew more than four minutes off the clock when Washougal forced the Pirates into a fourth-and-4 at their own 37 with 2:44 left.
On the play, junior lineman Jose Alvarez-Cruze suffered a neck-and-head injury, Hajek said. Play was halted for 18 minutes as paramedics tended to him, eventually taking him off the field on a backboard and stretcher.
“We hope it’s just precautionary,” Hajek said. “But obviously we were concerned about him.”
When play resumed, the Pirates lined up as if they were going to go for the first down. Instead, Washougal jumped offsides, giving Highline the first down, which allowed the Pirates to run out the clock.
After the game, several Highline players came over to share “good games” specifically with senior linebacker Garrett Mansfield, who led the Washougal defense with five tackles for loss.
“Garrett, he’s a man,” Hajek said. “He plays like a man. He’s a great kid. He works hard. He’s beat up right now, but he plays with his heart.”
The game started like it was going to be an offensive shootout with both teams driving to touchdowns on their first possessions.
But Washougal’s defense got stops that allowed the Panthers to take a 14-6 lead on Holden Bea’s 1-yard touchdown run with 7:14 left in the second quarter.
Then it was Highline’s turn to get a couple of three-and-outs from Washougal, which allowed the Pirates to take a 15-14 lead into halftime.
Then on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, William Cooper intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
“Will has done a great job of being our utility guy,” Hajek said. “He plays running. He plays receiver. He plays free safety. He plays linebacker. He’s a big-play kid.”
Cooper added a 3-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter. But breakdowns on defense — one on third-and-10 and one on fourth-and-9 — led to long touchdown passes by Highline that gave the Pirates a 30-27 lead with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter.
When John Costa recovered a muffed punt return at the Highline 31, it looked like Washougal was primed to retake the lead. But Estrada’s interception ended that threat.
Bea was held to a season-low 108 yards passing.
“They did a great job on Holden,” Hajek said. “Their defensive back were just clamped right to our receivers.”
Then the Pirates ended the Panthers’ season.
Washougal (9-2) returned a large portion of its roster in 2023. So there is optimism going forward.
Still, Hajek really wanted to play one more week with this group of seniors.
“Our seniors, they were here in 2019 when we made it to the quarterfinals,” Hajek said. “Then there was the COVID year and then we had a rash of injuries last year. We really feel that our future is pretty bright. And we tried to tell the seniors that it is because of them we are where we’re at. They helped carry that torch from 2019 to this year, and hopefully the underclassmen will carry it into next year.”
HIGHLINE 30, WASHOUGAL 27
Washougal 6 8 13 0—27
Highline 6 9 8 7—30
W — Liam Atkin 39 run (kick blocked)
H — Rico Jerez-Sosa 8 run (kick blocked)
W — Holden Bea 1 run (Atkin run)
H — Josiah Maginniss 30 FG
H — Jerez-Sosa 3 run (pass failed)
W — William Cooper 36 interception return (run failed)
H — Adam Estrada 43 pass from Ronan Rasmussen (Marquawn McCraney run)
W — William Cooper 3 pass from Bea (Koby Johnson kick)
H — La’Marques Williams 42 pass from Rasmussen (Maginniss kick)
RUSHING — Washougal: Liam Atkin 17-166, Holden Bea 12-74, William Cooper 8-26. Highline: Rico Jerez-Sosa 18-100, Jamaine Matthews 6-13, Adam Estrada 2-6, Marquawn McCraney 5-22, Ronan Rasmussen 2-(10), team 1-(-10).
PASSING — Washougal: Holden Bea 12-25-2-108. Highline: Rasmussen 9-14-1-189.
RECEIVING — Washougal: William Cooper 4-41, Sam Evers 3-44, John Costa 2-17, Liam Atkin 1-2, Talon Connelly 1-1, Jayson Graham 1-3. Highline: Charles Brown 3-39, Marquawn McCraney 2-32, La’Marques Williams 3-75, Adam Estrada 1-43.