Day After Report: Washougal 26, Woodland 8

The mood in the Washougal postgame huddle effervesced from one end of Fishback Stadium to the other.

They’d heard that up north, Hockinson had rallied on an improbable hook-and-ladder play and two-point conversion to beat Columbia River, which seemed to eliminate the possibility of a Kansas tiebreaker for the 2A Greater St Helens League’s regional playoff berths.

One more win next week against R.A. Long, the Panthers thought, and they were in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“We just have to take care of business,” said Washougal coach Dave Hajek. “R.A. Long is a team that’s getting better, but we’ve progressed, too. If we play like we did tonight, we’ll be that No. 3 seed.”

Everybody, however, was missing the elephant in the room.

Or more accurately, the big Spudder.

Ridgefield’s 24-22 win over R.A. Long on Friday means the Spudders will have the biggest say on how messy the 2A GSHL playoff picture becomes in the final two weeks.

Yes, Washougal can guarantee that it will at least be in any tiebreaker discussion by beating the Lumberjacks at home.

But Ridgefield still has road games at Woodland next week and Columbia River in Week 9, and the results of those games will eventually settle the playoff picture.

Assuming Washougal wins Friday:

If the Spudders win out, they would force a three-team merry-go-round for two playoff spots involving River, Washougal, and Ridgefield.

If Hockinson were to stub its toe in Longview in Week 9 and lose to R.A. Long, it could even be a four-way tie for the 2A GSHL title.

If Woodland beats Ridgefield, though, then the playoff teams are set.

Even if the Spudders beat the Chieftains, it’s still a three-way tie for second – assuming the Beavers beat winless Mark Morris in Week 9 – but this time between River, Washougal, and Woodland. In that case, head-to-head results break the tie: River is No. 2 by virtue of wins over both the Panthers and Beavers, and Washougal is No. 3.

So yes, the potential for a mess still exists. But if Washougal takes care of business next week, it will at least right in the thick of it.

Besides a playoff spot, Washougal also is bidding for a winning season, which would be its fourth in the past six years – although none of the previous three ended in the playoffs.

Those twin goals carry significant importance to the coaches and players trying to build the program back up.

“It would prove that we’re here, that we’re not a joke,” said junior quarterback Ryan Stevens. “There are guys here at school who are like, ‘I could play football, but I don’t want to play for a losing team.’ Making the playoffs will boost morale around here.”

It also would fit right into Hajek’s master plan. He saw how young his team was last season and figured it would take some lumps. With a year’s experience under its belt, he figured 2016 could end with a playoff berth, and then next year, maybe challenge for the league title with a seasoned senior class.

Injuries have taken a toll up front and left a freshman, Brevan Bea, starting at linebacker. Bea looked good Friday with four tackles (one for loss), a fumble recovery, an interception, and another pass breakup.

“Brevan is a good freshman, and we have others who are just as good,” Hajek said. “We’re a little under the radar, but I like that right now. We’re building some respect for the program.”

The expected storm Friday night hit during the final minute of the first quarter and didn’t let up until after halftime.

Senior linebacker Jake Klackner was so waterlogged, he said it felt as if he was 10 pounds heavier, and Stevens went even further.

“Probably the rain,” he said when asked what he’d remember most of the game. “I’ve been playing football since the first grade, and that’s the rainiest game I’ve ever played in. But it also was the most fun game I’ve played in.”

A week ago, Woodland coach Mike Woodward exhorted his players following a 35-24 loss at Chieftain Stadium to Columbia River. He was proud of his undermanned team’s effort against the Chieftains and excited about their chances against Washougal.

Woodward had none of that ebullience following Friday’s game. He looked dejected after watching his team cough up four turnovers and muster just 120 yards of total offense as the Beavers dropped to 3-4 for the second straight season.

“No excuses, we didn’t play well,” he said. “We’re a better football team than what we showed tonight. I really can’t put a finger on what’s going on. It’s just a lot of little mistakes that are leading to ugly endings.”

One problem for the Beavers is their lack of a running game, which came back to haunt them for a second straight game. After gaining just 6 net yards on the ground against River, they rushed for just 28 yards against the Panthers.

That meant junior quarterback Wyatt Harsh had to shoulder most of the offensive burden. Harsh, who came into the game completing 51.2 percent of his passes, finished 10-of-26 (38.5%) for just 92 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown.

Washougal, meanwhile, did just enough in its ground attack (133 yards, including a game-high 94 on 15 carries for Marcos Martinez) to grind out the win.

“They were more consistent than we were in the run game,” Woodward said. “Tristan (Thomas, who gained 73 yards on 18 carries) did some good things for us, but every time we’d find momentum, we’d find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

This and that: Washougal’s previous win in the series came in 2010. The first recorded meeting between the teams came in 1941, and the Panthers own a 26-21-1 lead. The Beavers have still won 10 of the last 13 meetings. … Washougal also struggled with handling the ball in the wet conditions, fumbling the ball five times, but the Panthers recovered them all. Their only turnover came late in the fourth quarter on an interception by Tyler Flanagan. … Sophomore DT Jack Ripp had a game-high 10 tackles for the Beavers. Senior LB Trent Snead made seven tackles, two for loss, and junior DB Brock Murray had three tackles for loss. … Senior LB Tristan Schipull led Washougal with six tackles. Klackner added five, including two sacks, and Martinez had four tackles and three pass breakups.

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