Washougal to meet Tumwater Saturday

Panthers have a stern test in their playoff opener

Washougal Panthers: (6-3, 4-2 2A GSHL)

Week 1: Washougal 54, West Seattle 0
Week 2: Washougal 41, Castle Rock 14
Week 3: Washougal 17, Columbia River 0
Week 4: Washougal 20, Mark Morris 14
Week 5: Washougal 34, Ridgefield 14
Week 6: Hockinson 41, Washougal 7
Week 7: Woodland 20, Washougal 7
Week 8: Washougal 17, R.A. Long 15
Week 9: Santiam Christian (Ore.) 28, Washougal 18

Next: at Tumwater, 6 p.m. Saturday in district playoff, winner-to-state game.

The Panthers lost a non-league game in Week 9 and then ended up losing the three-team tiebreaker for second place in the 2A Greater St. Helens League. Still a playoff team, though.

Tough draw:

Washougal quarterback Ryan Stevens (11) and his teammates will face Tumwater in the first round of the playoffs Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Washougal quarterback Ryan Stevens (11) and his teammates will face Tumwater in the first round of the playoffs Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Washougal, Columbia River, and Woodland took to the field Monday night in a series of mini-games to break the three-way tie for second place.

The goal this night was to win or finish second in the tiebreaker. That would mean a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed to the district playoffs.

The team that finished third in the tiebreaker would get the No. 4 seed.

“It’s great to make the playoffs a second year in a row,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said. “Unfortunately, we have to play one of the top teams in the state. That’s a tough thing to do.”

Yep, Washougal “lost” the tiebreaker and will be traveling to take on Tumwater, No. 2 in The Associated Press’ Class 2A poll.

The bright side for Washougal? No pressure. Absolutely none. No one outside of the Washougal locker room expects the Panthers to win.

“We’re going to go up there and try to play our best,” Hajek said. “For us, it’s about the younger guys gaining some experience and the older guys playing, possibly, their last game, and getting a shot at Tumwater.”

Injury bug:

Washougal’s season started with a 5-0 mark and high expectations. Certainly higher than a No. 4 seed.

But the injuries started to pile. The Panthers had another one in Week 9, too.

“Injuries put a damper on our season and slowed our development,” Hajek said. “The good news is other kids got an opportunity to play, mature, and grow. It’s great experience for next year for those guys.

“Unfortunately this year, we’re learning, and learning hurts. Some of these guys are getting baptism by fire. The fire is Tumwater.”

MVP on offense in Week 9:

Dalton Payne caught a touchdown pass. Usually a defensive player, Payne, a great athlete, was asked to try wide receiver after yet another Washougal injury. (Another player, Judson Mansfield, caught three passes. Mansfield had very little varsity experience.)

MVP on defense:

Nathan Tofell with some big tackles. He, too, was playing hurt.

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