The Highline Pirates hung on to win a nail biter game 30-27 over the visiting Washougal Panthers.
It was a game of the Panthers grind-it-out offense vs. the Pirates big-play offense. But in the final minutes, the Pirates made a risky play to gain four yards on the fourth down by strategically drawing Washougal into a false start; they capitalized on the penalty to gain a first down and ran the clock out to victory.
Quarterback Coach and Offensive Coordinator Anthony Berg shares his initial reaction after the victory, “it was a collective effort; everyone had their input, we were able to sort through some things and get the job done. It was stressful…but one of the most satisfying wins I’ve ever been a part of.”
The Panthers were by far the best team Highline has faced in 2A competition. Quarterback Holden Bea lived up to his billing. Throwing with consistent accuracy and showing excellent open-field running. His size, intelligence, and coolness were the heartbeat of Washougal’s team.
The Panthers offense and defense were disciplined and poised; they racked up 15 first downs gobbling up large chunks of yardage. Their defense stopped half the Pirate run plays for no gain or small losses. But in the end, they couldn’t overcome the Pirates speed and ability to make the big plays.
Interestingly, the Panthers outplayed the Pirates by controlling the ball and using more clock time than the Pirates. At the same time, the ever-present Pirate penalties kept the Panthers in the game and Highline from pulling away with a 14-point win. The Pirates were charged with 147 yards of penalties.
On the second half’s opening kickoff, Marquawn McCraney ran the ball back 80 yards to the Panther 2-yard line. But the play was brought back to the Pirate 37 on a holding call, and a potential touchdown was negated. On the next play, Quarterback Ronan Rasmussen threw a pass Panther Willian Cooper intercepted and took into the end zone. It was a 12-point swing over two plays. The game seemed to lean toward Washougal.
The Panthers scored on their opening drive of the game with a convincing 80-yard drive capped by a 38-yard touchdown run by Liam Atkin. Highline blocked the PAT. However, the Pirates struck right back with a 51-yard drive finished by Rico Jerez-Sosa’s 8-yard run. The Panthers returned the favor and blocked the Pirate PAT.
Bea brought his team down the field again and scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. At 7:14 in the 2nd quarter, it was Washougal 14 and the Pirates 6. Highline came back with a 28-yard field goal by Josiah Maginniss to bring the score to 14-9. Rasmussen hit on some passes to McCraney and Tight End Charles Brown to set up Soza for his second score, a 2-yard run.
Highlines 2-point conversion failed, and at the half, it was 15-14 Pirates. Soza had a total of 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the game.
If Soza was the star of the first half, Adam Estrada was the second-half man. With the Panthers leading 20-15 after the Cooper interception and touchdown, Washougal was gaining momentum, moving the ball at will. But the Pirate’s defensive speed amped up the pressure on Bea; he started showing signs of tiredness. In a scramble, he threw a long ball that Estrada positioned himself for, intercepted, and ran back 40 yards to stop the drive. When the offense came out on the field, Head Coach Deontae Cooper had a new look; McCraney was in the shotgun. The former quarterback threw an elegant pass over the defense, hitting Jamiane Williams right in stride for a 42-yard touchdown. McCraney then ran for a two-point conversion. Advantage Pirates 23-20.
The Panthers responded with a long drive punctuated by a 2-yard plunge by William Cooper, and Washougal was back on top 27 to 23.
As the game entered the fourth quarter, it was clear that either side could win this. At 11:53 in the 4th, Ronan Rasmussen connected with La’Marquis Williams for a 38-yard touchdown pass to elevate the Pirates to the lead at 30-27.
But the Panthers were not finished. Beginning on the 20, Bea leads his team on another long and convincing drive. It looked as though the Panthers were going to make it to the end zone with little time left. But Estrada struck again. In a stunning athletic defensive play, Estrada stretched out and intercepted a Bea pass on the Pirate 2-yard line just as he hit the turf.
“We played a very good team tonight. They were well-coached and played very hard. That was the best quarterback we have seen. But we just kept doing what we do and stayed in our game. This is a historical moment for our high school program, for our kids. They haven’t been here before…this is the first time they’re going to the elite eight. There are eight teams left standing, and we’re one of them. I’m proud of these guys. Next Friday, we will have our toughest test yet. But we will be who we are, work hard and be ready to play,” said Coach Cooper.
The Pirates will square off against the number one seed Lynden next Friday at 7 PM at Lynden High School in the second round of the state playoffs.
The Pirates have defied the odds and will square off against a formidable opponent next week against the number one seed Lynden. Their next game is Friday, November 18th, at 7 PM at Lynden High School.
As always, we invite you to be a Pirate and join the team chant, “Let your yes be yes, your no be no. Now go home and tell someone you love them.”
Well done Pirates.
At the time of publishing, the statistics were not available.