Taking advantage of a safety near the end of the first half, the Washington Blue Jays held off the St. Clair Bulldogs at Rauch Field, 26-21.
Slick footballs on a hot and humid night added to the anxiety of the opening week of the high school football season. Turnovers and fumbles stalled both teams.
Washington took the opening kickoff, but stalled in St. Clair territory.
The Bulldogs started from their own two after a punt was downed there, but a lengthy drive ended at the Washington 10 when Austin Finder recovered a fumble.
The Bulldogs struck first when Paul Armistead blocked a punt and returned the ball 12 yards for the game's first score.
The Bulldogs had a bad snap on the extra point attempt, but Adam Hinson calmly found Devon Thompson in the end zone for a two-point conversion. St. Clair led 8-0 with 5:43 to play in the opening quarter.
Washington got on the scoreboard with 2:10 to play in the quarter. Jared Rennick rambled to the left for the touchdown run. Conlan Jarvis kicked the extra point, cutting the St. Clair lead to 8-7.
The touchdown was set up by a bad snap on a St. Clair punt.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs continued to find success running the ball. Cody Bredell hustled up the middle from six yards out with 10:45 to go in the second quarter and Kyle Walters kicked the extra point to make it 15-7 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Washington bounced back with Rennick seeming to shed almost the entire St. Clair defense for a big gain up the middle. That set up a 11-yard pass from Isaac Lippert to a wide-open Ben Straatmann with 7:18 left in the half. Jarvis kicked the extra point to cut the St. Clair lead to 15-14.
Another missed punt snap led to Jay Jacquin putting Washington on top with 56 seconds left in the half. He tackled Walters, who alertly held onto the ball instead of trying to make something happen in the end zone. Washington took a 16-15 lead and that's how the half ended.
Special teams issues continued to plague the Bulldogs to start the second half as a fumbled kickoff forced St. Clair to start at its own nine-yard line. From there, halftime adjustments by the Blue Jays halted the St. Clair running game, forcing another punt.
The punt snap was good, but Seth Bollmann went 48 yards down the right sideline for a score with 9:36 left in the quarter. Jarvis made the extra point to give Washington a 23-15 lead.
Evander Spinks lugged the ball into Washington territory following an injury break.
Spinks came through again on fourth and one to push the ball to the Washington 24.
On fourth down from the 25, Collin Scott's pass fell just past Kevin Cox's outstretched hands in the end zone and the Blue Jays held. With the heat and humidity, cramping injuries slowed down play in the second half. Rennick ran the ball into St. Clair territory, but had to come out with a leg cramp.
Washington's drive stalled, but Jarvis kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:19 left in the quarter.
Spinks returned the kickoff to the Washington 49 and Bredell followed that with a first-down run to the 30.
The third quarter ended with the Bulldogs driving at the Washington 25. However, facing fourth and two, St. Clair was stopped a yard short and Washington took over at its own 21.
On the next play, Lippert carried out to the Washington 45 and the Blue Jays gained momentum again.
Washington's drive wilted in the heat and humidity, but the Blue Jays knocked key time off the clock. St. Clair had 7:50 left when Trey Walsh's punt was downed at the one-yard line.
St. Clair needed only one play to make something happen. Scott kept the ball of the left side and went 99 yards for a score with 7:34 to play. However, the two-point conversion attempt failed on a fumble.
After the kickoff, Washington stalled and was forced to punt. The Bulldogs took over at their own 31 with 6:25 to play.
Time became Washington's best ally as the Blue Jays stripped seconds off the clock before giving St. Clair the ball back at its own 18. Lippert knocked the ball away on a fourth-down pass to seal the victory for the Blue Jays.
SC - Paul Armistead 12 blocked punt return (Devon Thompson pass from Adam Hinson), 5:43
W - Jared Rennick 47 run (Conlan Jarvis kick), 2:10
SC - Cody Bredell 6 run (Kyle Walters kick), 10:45
W - Ben Straatmann 22 pass from Isaac Lippert (Jarvis kick), 7:18
W - Jay Jaquin tackles Walters in end zone for safety, 0:56
W - Seth Bollmann 48 punt return (Jarvis kick), 9:36
W - Jarvis 28 FG, 2:19
SC - Collin Scott 99 run (run failed), 7:34