Most of the Week 1 matchups will be played Friday, but Washougal got the jump on the high school football season in the region with a 45-8 victory over River Ridge
WASHOUGAL — The magic of Friday Night Lights got a 24-hour head start in Washougal.
In fact, the Washougal Panthers — the only game in town Thursday night — must have felt like the whole county was watching them, so they just had to put on a show.
High school football is back, and so, too, are the Panthers.
Come Friday night, most other Clark County teams will be playing their first games of the season. They, too, will get to experience something new: Instead of tackling their own teammates in practice, blocking their friends, they get to hit an opponent.
Win or lose, it is a milestone. Teams have made it beyond the winter weight lifting workouts, the spring drills, the dog days of summer, and then official camp that starts in mid August.
The players are not the only ones who have been waiting.
The cheerleaders. The band members. The fans.
They arrived, too, in order to welcome Football 2023.
“It’s a surreal feeling, having everyone come out to support us. It was great that we got the win, and everyone got to witness that,” said Washougal quarterback Holden Bea, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for three more scores in a 45-8 win over River Ridge. “Hopefully they’ll keep coming to enjoy the games.”
Oh, they will. Washougal loves these Panthers, the defending Class 2A Greater St. Helens League champions who have even higher expectations this season.
“With all the success we had last year, we have all the fans coming,” added Cooper Maxey. “We have a lot of support behind us. That’s a good feeling.”
There was another team also experiencing opening night at Fishback Stadium on Thursday: The Washougal cheer squad.
“Opening night means coming together as a team and having fun, while cheering on our (football) team,” said Jordan Perry, one of the captains of the cheer squad. “We like showing pride in who we are as a school.”
The cheerleaders hope they are busy in football season well into November, and maybe into December.
“I have faith in our boys that they’ll do great things this season,” Perry said. “I’m ready to cheer them on.”
On the field, Thursday’s matchup was not exactly filled with drama. It was pretty much all Washougal, all night.
But that is a story in itself, too. A year ago, Washougal beat this same school in an overtime game. And only after a penalty took away a late touchdown from River Ridge.
Yes, both teams are different a year later. But Washougal’s execution on Friday was a way for the Panthers to show just how much they have worked in the offseason.
Bea’s first three downfield passes were perfectly thrown, and there were some great catches, too. Then there was the Washougal defense. The Panthers forced a three-and-out on River Ridge’s first possession, and in the second quarter, Washougal had a goal-line stand on a fourth-down play.
Maxey, on just the second defensive play of the game, put a hit on a River Ridge running back that might have registered on the Richter scale. It was loud, and the home stadium erupted in cheers.
“That’s the best feeling. Last year we had such a stellar season. This season, we’re looking to do even more,” Maxey said. “That was the way to set the tone, right there.”
Maxey also was the guy in the backfield making a tackle-for-loss on fourth down on River Ridge’s lone scoring threat in the first half.
Bea threw for 226 of his 243 yards in the first half. He had TD passes to Harry DeShazer and Sam Evers.
“I was a little nervous to start out the season, but I loved the way we came out,” Bea said. “The energy was great. The defense was hitting hard. The offense was scoring points. Love to have that for Week 1.”
Evers caught six passes for 177 yards, including a 59-yard TD when he Moss’d the defensive back, jumping over the defender to catch the ball. Evers then maintained his balance to make it into the end zone.
Bea also had 94 yards on the ground with three rushing touchdowns. Including the play of the night: With 2.2 seconds left in the first half, Washougal was at its own 40-yard line.
Then Bea happened. Not exactly planned. But the improv worked.
“I knew everybody was going to drop deep, thinking we were going to pass,” Bea said. “I let them get spaced out, and then I could pick a lane to go. My receivers can get a block, and my line gave me time, so I was able to pick my path and go.”
As in go 60 yards for a touchdown.
“It worked out,” Bea said.
A perfect opener for the Washougal Panthers, on opening week for the entire state.
High school football is back in a big way in Clark County.
- Evergreen running back all about sportsmanship and the family feelEvergreen running back James Bethune has had two 100-yard rushing performances this season, and he excels in the classroom.
- Mountain View’s Joseph Burcham all about football IQ, passion, and hustle As Mountain View prepares to take on rival Evergreen this week, the Thunder know that lineman Joseph Burcham will always be there for them.
- Professional soccer player Yaneisy Rodriguez returns home to donate equipmentColumbia River High School graduate and soccer star Yaneisy Rodriguez, who is now playing professionally in Mexico, returned to Vancouver to donate equipment to the Hudson’s Bay high school soccer program.
- No longer a coach, Rory Rosenbach makes triumphant return to McKenzie StadiumFormer Union football coach Rory Rosenbach is now the athletic director at Glacier Peak, and on Friday the Grizzlies from Snohomish visited Vancouver to take on Evergreen at McKenzie Stadium.
- High School football: Woodland looks ahead after stunning victory last weekThe Woodland Beavers know they won’t be surprising anyone the rest of this season, not after surprising defending league champion Washougal last week, and now the Beavers are looking to continue to improve week to week.