A protracted pre-game warm-up seemed to arouse Aberdeen’s defense.
Stymieing Washougal’s attack for more than three quarters, the Bobcats celebrated Homecoming with a 29-12 victory in a Greater St. Helens 2A League football contest Friday night at Stewart Field.
Registering their first-ever Greater St. Helens triumph, the Bobcats (1-2, 2-5) kept their playoff hopes alive.
Washougal’s bus didn’t arrive until 40 minutes prior to the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff, reportedly due in part to a side trip to the AHS campus.
When the contest finally began approximately 15 minutes behind schedule, the Bobcats were assuredly ready to play. That was particularly true on the defensive side of the ball.
Aberdeen’s first-half defensive statistics were eye-popping. The Bobcats didn’t allow Washougal to gain positive yardage until its 10th scrimmage play or convert a first down until the 4:52 mark of the third quarter.
The Cats outgained the Panthers in the first half, 164 yards to minus 3.
“Coach Rice (defensive coordinator Scott Rice) did an outstanding job of preparing the defense and the kids did a great job of executing the defensive game plan,” Bobcat coach Terry Dion summarized.
Senior defensive back Justin Berkley was seemingly everywhere in what Dion described as the finest game of his prep career. The Bobcat coach also cited the defensive play of Kaleb Levao and Chase Johnson up front.
Aberdeen was unspectacular but generally solid with a ball-control offense, as senior fullback Bryceson Talley rushed for 94 yards and quarterback Veek Cheema completed enough short passes to keep the Panthers honest.
The Cats did leave some potential points on the field, fumbling twice in Washougal territory and having a Sam Ruiz field goal nullified by a procedure penalty. For all of Aberdeen’s dominance, the outcome wasn’t assured until Berkley stuffed Bobby Jacobs on a conversion run and Ashton Williamson recovered the ensuing onside kick with 4:15 remaining.
Aberdeen’s defense even accounted for the game’s opening points.
After the Bobcats went three and out on the first possession, Berkley’s punt was downed by Collin Martin on the Washougal 3-yard line.
The Panthers (0-3 in league) selected a double reverse for their first scrimmage play, but Talley led a horde of Bobcat defenders (which also included Williamson and Filipo Cournoyer) that nailed the ball-carrier in the end zone for a safety.
The Bobcats then went 52 yards in seven plays after taking the ensuing free kick. Cheema, who completed a 17-yard pass to Cournoyer earlier in the drive, veered to the left on an option keeper and spilled into the end zone to complete an 18-yard scoring run.
Taking a direct snap from center, Talley ran for the conversion and a 10-0 lead with 8:01 remaining in the first quarter. The same tactic was unsuccessful on the next two conversions.
Talley’s 1-yard plunge on the opening play of the second quarter completed a 45-yard scoring drive. Cheema flipped to Cournoyer in the flat on a 10-yard TD pass midway through the quarter that made it 22-0.
Although still without a first down at this point, the Panthers got on the scoreboard when Tristan LeBaron scooped up a Bobcat fumble and raced 82 yards to the end zone in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the first half. A failed conversion pass made it 22-6 at intermission.
Bobcat defensive back Carter Harris intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards to the Washougal 11 midway through the third quarter. Three plays later, Austin Floch burst through a huge hole on a 5-yard run for Aberdeen’s lone second-half touchdown. Ruiz tacked on the conversion.
Brandon Bea, Washougal’s freshman quarterback, found Garrett Duey on a 26-yard TD pass with 4:15 left in the contest. But Williamson covered the onside kick to seal the deal.
The Bobcats will make their final home appearance Friday against Hockinson.