KELSO — One play, on the heels of many more before it, was all Aberdeen needed to secure a district playoff berth Tuesday night.
The Bobcats stood tall on defense to hold Washougal scoreless to get the ball back. One play later, senior Drew Stocker ran 25 yards for the winning touchdown to claim the Greater St. Helens 2A League three-way tiebreaker at Schroeder Field in Kelso.
Aberdeen eliminated Washougal and Hockinson and will now meet an old rival — top-ranked Tumwater — in a District IV 2A crossover playoff game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“The focus (by the team) was just outstanding,” AHS head coach Terry Dion said. “We came back from the disappointment on the PAT miss (earlier), but we got stronger and more determined (as the night went on). We’re right back into the season and I believe we are better than we were.”
The format was easy for all three teams, which tied for third place in the standings to force this playoff for the league’s third and final postseason berth. Each team got one possession from the 25-yard line. After an equal number of possessions, whichever team scored the most points won. The first team to two wins after three sets of overtimes won the district berth.
In the second series of overtimes (after the first set ended in a 1-1-1 split), the Bobcats secured a winner-take-all overtime with the Panthers by blanking the Hawks, 8-0.
Aberdeen won the toss and took defense to start. Washougal aimed to run away from the Bobcats’ interior defense, but found life difficult. Senior running back Bobby Jacobs got the ball on all but two plays in the drive and was contained by the Aberdeen defense, led by Kaleb Levao, Chase Johnson, Joel Dublanko, Deon Schlesser and Stocker.
Jacobs’ only big run was 14 yards to set up first-and-goal at the Aberdeen 8-yard line. In four plays, the Panthers finished with zero yards, including a wide pitch to Tristan Roseff on fourth down that Levao, Stocker and Carter Harris smothered for the turnover on downs.
On the first play from scrimmage, Stocker took the ball off-tackle right, broke through one arm tackle and bulldozed a Panther defender at the goal line for the district-clinching touchdown.
“There was a lot of emotion and I haven’t been that nervous since before the Aberdeen-Hoquiam game,” Stocker said. “Our goal in every game is to ground and pound. We have some very physical offensive linemen. We knew all of the adjustments. We just wanted to be as physical as possible.
“This is a huge memory for (the seniors) to be in the playoffs and for the program,” Dion said. “Second, against Washougal (in the regular season), we went down there and laid an egg. We should have gone down there and beaten them, so we didn’t need to be here tonight. When we got our chance, we had something to prove on how we expect to play and I thought they really showed it today.”
Aberdeen got its chance to clinch by shutting out Hockinson, which lose to Washougal, 6-0, in two overtimes. Dublanko was the lead blocker on Stocker’s 13-yard run that set up his 2-yard scoring plunge. The sophomore quarterback/fullback/linebacker made it 8-0 when he took a pitch on a “swinging gate” running play.
The defense responded by bending, but not breaking, against the Hawks. Hockinson quarterback Jess Krahn only completed 2-of-7 attempts on the drive, but did get a pass interference call to set up a pivotal third-down-and-3.
A dropped pass, the fourth by Hawks’ wide receivers on the night, on third down set up a crucial fourth-down scenario. On the play, Stocker never allowed Krahn’s target, Nick Barclay, to get the ball to seal the win.
The first series of overtimes finished without a victor declared. Thus, the second series of overtimes was ushered in.
Washougal and Hockinson needed just two plays each to score and end their first overtime game. Jacobs’ 2-point conversion run gave the Panthers an 8-7 win.
Aberdeen needed just three plays to score in its first overtime game against Hockinson, a 13-yard touchdown run by Austin Floch. The Bobcats, however, were called for an illegal formation on their 2-point conversion play and subsequently missed their PAT kick.
The Hawks responded when Krahn evaded the Bobcats’ defense on fourth down for a 9-yard touchdown throw to Cameron Loos. Hockinson’s Quentin Bodenhamer kicked the PAT for the 7-6 win.
Needing a win against Washougal to extend the night into a second set of overtimes, Aberdeen used six plays and overcame a false start penalty to give Floch his second touchdown run from 9 yards out. David Housden kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead on Washougal.
Panthers’ quarterback Chase Duey ended the overtime when his pitch to Jacobs was fumbled and was initially ruled a forward pass. Stocker recovered the ball and the officials, after huddling, reversed the call to a backward lateral and fumble for the Bobcat win.