The first time W.F. West and Washougal met this season the Bearcats walked off their home turf with a 23-7 non-league victory that didn’t matter for much more than pride and momentum.
This time around the Panthers got the best of W.F. West 28-7 and the stakes could hardly have been higher in the 2A District IV football crossover playoff affair. The loss ends the 2019 campaign for the Bearcats while propelling Washougal into the round of 16 in the state playoffs.
“They are a really good football team. They weren’t the three seed from down south they were the two seed in my opinion,” said W.F. West coach Dan Hill. “They are a good football team. They’re physical. They play defense extremely well and we had a really, really hard time running the ball tonight.”
The difference in outcomes can rightly be chalked up to differences in personnel. Specifically, the first time Washougal came to Lewis County they were playing without their star quarterback Dalton Payne while the Bearcats boasted a fierce and healthy roster. This time around, though, it was W.F. West who was missing a playmaker as Leandre Gaines sat out the contest with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Payne managed to find his way back under center in time for the playoff matchup, and he made the most of his opportunity on the big stage.
The Panthers picked up 414 yards of total offense in their win over W.F. West with those gains split evenly between their ground game and air attack. Payne led the Washougal offense by connecting with seven receivers for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 25 pass attempts. The senior signal caller also rushed for a pair of touchdowns for good measure.
“Their quarterback did really well tonight. He got the ball out in rhythm and their guys caught the ball. I’ve got to tip my cap to them,” added Hill.
W.F. West managed to snag a short lived lead in the second quarter after both teams spent the first period trading punts and turnovers. Carter McCoy turned the Bearcats sideline into a mosh pit in the first quarter when he pulled down an interception on the Panthers third play of the game and then ran it back 30-yards for fun. It wasn’t until five and a half minutes into the second quarter, though, that the logjam finally broke when quarterback Josiah Johnson connected with McCoy for a 30-yard air strike to cap a three play, 48 yard drive that took all of 25 seconds.
However, that lead lasted just two minutes as Washougal promptly embarked on a six play, 68 yard drive. That drive was capped by a 30-yard pass from Payne to Jakob Davis and sent the teams into the intermission tied at 7-7.
Six minutes into the second half the Panthers broke the tie as Payne found his rhythm in the pocket. One pass went for 27 yards as Julien Jones hauled in a one-handed grab and a few plays later Payne sprinted past the goal line for a six yard touchdown run of his own. Five minutes later Payne dialed up his second throwing score of the night when he hit Brevan Bea for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
W.F. West looked like they were ready to make a comeback run in the fourth quarter after a Wahougal punt pinned them back on their own five yard line. The Bearcats then marched 94 yards over the next four minutes thanks to big catches by Cade Haller and McCoy before being stymied by the Panthers defense at the one yard line.
That clutch defensive stop spelled the end of the Bearcats hopes and the Panthers later let Payne run in one more score with five seconds left on the clock to put a bow on their victory.
With quarterback Josiah Johnson fresh off a head injury, running back Jaiyden Camoza limited by a leg injury and Gaines out for good the Bearcats were simply unable to muster the firepower to hang with a hard hitting and multi-faceted Washougal squad.
“It’s definitely adversity you but we had chances to make plays tonight and we just didn’t make them,” noted Hill. “It just comes down to them playing defense. When they can stop the run with five guys in the box and drop six or seven out there windows are small, windows are tight, and it forced us to throw the ball a little more than we wanted to tonight. They forced us to be one dimenionsal.”
Johnson finished the game with 158 yards passing and a touchdown after connecting on a dozen of his 29 passes. On the other hand, the Bearcats running game was held to just 32 yards all night. Hill pointed out the efforts of Carter McCoy and Kayden Kelly for helping his team stay competitive as long as they did.
“With what they were doing defeinisly it required us to throw to our number one receivers a lot tonight and (McCoy) and Kayden stepped up big time and made some big catches for us,” Hill said.
The Bearcats coach went on to laud the season long efforts of his upperclassmen who saw their prep football careers come to an untimely end in front of their home fans.
“I just want to give credit to our seniors. It’s been an incredible season. They’re an incredible group of kids. Their energy and their love of football and their love for football is second to none,” said Hill. “This season has been an incredibly fun ride and I’m extremely sad it’s over. They’ve been an awesome group of boys.”