It took a fourth-down stop in its own territory for the Washington football Blue Jays to hold off surging Warrenton 19-14 Friday at home.
“It was a heck of a football game,” said Washington Head Coach Derick Heflin. “Our defense played their tails off.”
The home triumph at Scanlan Stadium was only the second victory over the past two seasons for Heflin and the Blue Jays (2-1), who snapped a winless streak that extended back to 2016 by shutting out Pacific in Week 2.
“Where we’re at with our program, we’re still learning how to win,” said Heflin. “Our kids learned how to win tonight, even though it was an ugly game at times. They bowed their necks, made a couple of stands on the goal line and came out victorious.”
Friday’s game, which included an earlier 5 p.m. start time to avoid pending storms, proved more difficult than the shutout against Pacific. Trailing 19-7 with 7:57 remaining, Warrenton pulled to within a possession when quarterback Nolan Chmiel scrambled for a 25-yard score.
The Washington defense was able to corral Chmiel and his limited backfield, missing starting rusher Dylan Smith due to a concussion, on the final drive.
The Blue Jays were particularly aided by strong contribution from Nate Busch, who was responsible for all of his team’s offensive points. He put Washington on the board first with a 78-yard run midway through the opening quarter.
The 7-0 advantage was short-lived, as Warrenton countered on the ensuing drive, with Chmiel racing 70 yards to help tie the game.
Penalties and a lone turnover proved to be detrimental for the Warriors, who gave up a touchdown to the Blue Jays’ defense with 7:06 left before halftime. Dylan Pape scooped up a fumble and returned it 30 yards to push Washington ahead 13-7.
“Offensively we were able to get a couple of big plays, and our defense gets the score that decides it,” said Heflin. “It’s always good when you come out on the winning side of these.”
Moments before the break, Blue Jays quarterback Logan Roewe connected with Busch on a 40-yard touchdown pass to extend the advantage.
“We went into our two-minute drill at the end of the half and were able to do some good things and hit Nate on the corner,” said Heflin.
Busch finished with a team-best 78 yards on six carries, along with 58 yards on two receptions.
Warrenton also showed prowess on defense, especially by holding the Blue Jays scoreless in the final two quarters. But this did not come without a cost, as Washington ate up the clock on a drive that lasted nearly eight minutes. Unfortunately, for the Blue Jays, it resulted in a missed field goal attempt.
“Any time you go on an eight minute drive, it’s a pretty good thing, because you’re controlling the tempo,” said Heflin. “I got a little over zealous on first down and tried to hit a fade, and then got behind the chains. Give credit to the offense line there, because they continued to bow their necks and play a great game.”
Washington finished with 203 yards of total offense, including 190 on the ground. Roewe completed four out of 10 passes, throwing one touchdown and an interception.
Defensively, the Blue Jays were led by Luke Kroeter with 16 total tackles, while Jack Carico recorded 12 takedowns and Darren Winistoerfer was responsible for 11 tackles.
Warrenton managed 309 yards of total offense, with Chmiel accounting for the bulk of those on the ground. He ran for 167 yards on 22 carries, while completing eight of 18 passes for 98 yards.
The Blue Jays will host Ft. Zumwalt East to open GAC Central action, while Warrenton hosts St. Charles to begin GAC North play in Week 4.