WASHOUGAL — In the spirit of an upcoming October holiday, a couple ghosts of the 2A Greater St. Helens League have haunted Washougal in seasons past.
One was Ridgefield, a team with three straight wins against the Panthers until they snapped the streak earlier this season.
The other, Hockinson, had won 11 straight meetings dating back to 2010. Most games weren’t particularly close.
But on Friday, one week after the Panthers clinched a share of the 2A GSHL title, all that stood between them and a perfect league record were the Hawks.
“Before the game, we were just saying, ‘Remember the past 10 years,’ ” junior receiver Sam Evers said. “It’s been a struggle going against them. … We just had to fight through the adversity and win it.”
Though the longtime 2A GSHL juggernaut gave Washougal a challenging test, nothing could stop the Panthers from hitting another milestone in a memorable season. Washougal rolled to a 58-40 win at Fishback Stadium behind a surgical offensive performance from quarterback Holden Bea, complemented by a host of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Bea threw three touchdown passes, two to Evers, rushed for three scores, Liam Atkin added two rushing touchdowns and the Panthers (8-1, 7-0) forced three turnovers in the second half, turning a shootout into a game they controlled.
“It always feel good to beat a team that you’ve been losing to for a long time,” Bea said. “That definitely lit a fire under us. We wanted an undefeated (league) season. We weren’t happy with sharing a league title. That was kind of our motto this week.”
Despite an on and off downpour on the field, the first half started at a fast pace with Hockinson’s Drake Wubben hauling in a 17-yard touchdown from quarterback Jarod Oldham, before the Panthers came back just two plays later with an Atkin 5-yard touchdown run.
The teams traded touchdowns for much of the half, but the Panthers had the final say when Bea orchestrated an 80-yard drive with 80 seconds left in the second quarter. Evers hauled in an 8-yard touchdown from the junior quarterback to put Washougal ahead 38-28 at halftime.
“Our mentality is, the only team that can stop us is us,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said. “That’s probably not a great mentality to tell other teams, but in our mind, that’s what we work on. … It’s not that we think we’re better than everybody else, but we have the mindset of, we’re going to continue to work so that the only people that can stop us is us.”
Then Panthers defense clamped down. A fumble recovery and Jayson Graham interception helped Washougal hold Hockinson scoreless in the third quarter.
With time ticking down inside five minutes in the fourth quarter, Bea ran for his third touchdown, a 1-yard plunge up the middle to give Washougal a 16-point edge.
Washougal shut the door on a Hockinson comeback when Owen Edwards recovered a Hawks fumble on the ensuing kickoff, leading to an Atkin 10-yard touchdown.
The Panthers waited patiently until the final play before pouring a bucket full of water on Hajek, who’s led Washougal for a combined 17 years as head coach.
“(Hockinson) beat us (11) years in a row. It was a big deal for us — a little nerve-wracking for me,” Hajek said. “The kids did a great job this year.”
Washougal has the No. 1 seed out of the 2A GSHL for the Week 10 district playoff game, with the winner advancing to the 2A state playoffs. The Panthers will match up against one of Shelton, Aberdeen or Black Hills once their tiebreaker is ironed out.
“During the summer, this is what we wanted, this is what we promised to our seniors,” Bea said. “We came out, worked our butts off (and) we got it done for them. Now it’s all about the playoffs, just taking it another step.
“The team did a great job in just doing their thing. We all had fun, and we deserve this one.”
WASHOUGAL 58, HOCKINSON 40
Hockinson 14 14 0 12—40
Washougal 17 21 6 14—58
H — Drake Wubben 17 pass from Jarod Oldham (John Charles kick)
W — Liam Atkin 5 run (Koby Johnson kick)
W — John Costa 35 pass from Holden Bea (Johnson kick)
H — Kasen Niemitalo 60 pass from Oldham (Charles kick)
W — Johnson 38 field goal
W — Bea 27 run (Johnson kick)
H — Charles 12 run (Charles kick)
W — Sam Evers 19 pass from Bea (Johnson kick)
H — Tristan Maldonado 20 pass from Oldham (Charles kick)
W — Evers 8 pass from Bea (Johnson kick)
W — Bea 2 run (run failed)
H — Charles 3 run (pass failed)
W — Bea 1 run (pass failed)
W — Atkin 10 run (Blake Mattern pass from William Cooper)
H — Oldham 2 run (pass failed)
RUSHING — Hockinson: Charles 15-131, Wubben 14-102, Oldham 14-85, Maldonado 1-5, Drew Stockton 1-1. Washougal: Atkin 17-142, Bea 14-135, Cooper 6-45.
PASSING — Hockinson: Oldham 23-29-1-233. Washougal: Bea 20-25-0-295, Cooper 1-1-0-2.
RECEIVING — Hockinson: Enzo Oliverio 6-39, Charles 6-38, Wubben 4-46, Niemitalo 2-61, Maldonado 1-20, Carter Cameron 1-6, Ryder Stenersen 1-5. Washougal: Evers 10-97, Talon Connelly 5-107, Costa 2-57, Atkin 2-20, Jayson Graham 1-12, Mattern 1-2.