The Washington Blue Lions competed in their first football playoff game in 10 years Saturday night, Oct. 10, when they welcomed the Cougars from Thurgood Marshall High School.
The game quickly evolved into a shoot-out, with the Cougars outlasting the Blue Lions, 49-41.
Washington finishes the 2020 COVID-shortened season with a record of 3-4. The Blue Lions finished third in the Frontier Athletic Conference with a record of 3-2.
The Cougars improved to 2-2 with the win and will play at Clinton-Massie (6-0) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We just turned the ball over way too many times,” Washington head coach Chuck Williamson said. “We had seven turnovers and we lost by eight points. That says it all right there. You can’t turn the ball over seven times and expect to win. You have to take care of the football and we didn’t do that.”
Williamson mentioned a turning point in the game.
The Blue Lions had the ball first and goal at the Thurgood Marshall 1-yard line with under five minutes to play in the second quarter.
Deon’ Tay Ivery picked off the Blue Lion pass and returned the ball 99 yards for a touchdown.
“That was a 14-point swing, because, we were going in to score,” Williamson said. “The ball bounced off our receiver and the kid picked it and went 99 yards the other way.”
In spite of that, the Blue Lions kept battling.
“We battled all the way back,” Williamson said. “We knew that No. 4 (Jaylan Spann) was the real deal. We struggled to tackle him.”
The Blue Lions had the ball first and executed an 11-play drive. The drive concluded with a 1-yard run by senior quarterback Ethan Rogers-Wright.
After a bad snap or mishandled snap for the extra-point, sophomore Raleigh Haithcock passed to junior Tyler Tackage for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead with 9:04 to play in the first quarter.
On their very first play from scrimmage, Thurgood Marshall senior quarterback Christopher Stanfield Jr. lofted a pass to senior Jaylan Spann, good for 55 yards and a touchdown. Junior Edward Quesada made the extra-point kick for an 8-7 tally at the 8:54 mark.
Washington’s next possession resulted in a punt that was returned by Spann 48 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was no good, giving the Cougars a 13-8 lead.
The next series for the Blue Lions consisted of five plays and resulted in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Rogers-Wright to sophomore Tanner Lemaster. Sophomore R.J. Foose made the extra-point kick, putting Washington back on top, 15-13. That score came at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter.
The game settled down a bit in the second quarter, with both teams scoring once.
On the third possession of the second quarter, with 4:13 remaining until the half, Deon’ Tay Ivery intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. The two-point conversion pass was no good. The Cougars led at this juncture, 19-15.
The final score of the first half was a pass from Rogers-Wright to sophomore A.J. Dallmayer, good for 48 yards. The extra-point kick failed, leaving the Blue Lions in the lead, 21-19 with 2:26 to play in the half.
The third quarter was very hurtful to the Blue Lions’ cause as Thurgood Marshall scored 22 points to no points for Washington.
Thurgood Marshall took the lead, as it turned out, for good, with a 26-yard run by Spann. Stanfield passed to Spann for two points to give the Cougars a 27-21 lead at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter.
The visitors scored again on their next possession, the end result of a nine-play drive was a 13-yard run to the end zone by senior Ronnie Lander. The PAT kick by the Cougars was no good. With 2:48 to play in the third, TM led, 35-21.
Their next possession was another scoring one for the Cougars, as Stanfield connected with Ivery for a 15-yard pass play. Again, the extra-point was no good, but Thurgood Marshall led, 41-21 with 1:21 to play in the third quarter.
The Blue Lions did not go down without a fight in the fourth quarter.
The first possession of the fourth, which started late in the third quarter, was, in total, an 11-play drive that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown run by Tackage. Foose’s kick made it 41-28, Cougars with 10:47 to play in the game.
On Thurgood Marshall’s next possession, they fumbled, recovered by Washington senior Tyris Virts.
This series resulted in a turnover by the Blue Lions.
Thurgood Marshall had to punt back to the Blue Lions after failing to negotiate a first down.
It was a seven-play possession for the Blue Lions in which Haithcock hit sophomore Calum Brown for a 17-yard touchdown. Foose made the PAT to make it a one possession game, 41-35 with 6:22 to play.
Neither team could do much on their next respective possession.
Thurgood Marshall had the ball with 2:09 to go.
After the Blue Lions used two time outs to help preserve precious moments, Spann struck again, breaking away for a 53-yard touchdown. The two-point pass was good, giving the Cougars a 49-35 lead with 1:51 to play.
The final possession for the Blue Lions took 59 seconds off the clock and ended when Haithcock found Dallmayer for a 7-yard strike. The extra-point was no good, leaving the score 49-41.
Thurgood Marshall was able to run out the clock with the Blue Lions out of time outs.
Williamson reflected a bit on the extraordinary 2020 season.
“They came to (practice) every day and worked hard,” Williamson said. “Not knowing if there was going to be a season. Just all of the uncertainty they had, it was a tough deal for (the players) but I thought they handled it very, very well.
“From Mr. (Tom) Bailey (superintendent) to Mr. (Tracy) Rose (high school principal), to our senior captains to our seniors, our whole program, they did a good job navigating through these tough times. These were uncharted waters. I’ve been coaching for 27 years and I’ve never had to go through this. It was a tough thing to handle and I thought the entire program handled it very well.
“To get a home game, it shows what our peers thought of our program, to vote us higher than we were in the rankings,” Williamson said. “I think they saw us improving. Sometimes you just have that off night and unfortunately, Saturday night was our off night.”
Taking a look at the statistics, the Blue Lions ran a season-high 92 plays to 48 for Thurgood Marshall.
Washington had 404 total yards of offense to 317 for the Cougars.
Washington had 35 carries for 127 yards, led by Tackage with 24 carries for 130 yards and one touchdown.
Spann led the Cougars with 160 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
Rogers-Wright was 9 of 30 passing for 136 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Haithcock was 10 of 26 passing for 141 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Stanfield Jr. was 11 of 22 passing for 109 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
For the Blue Lions, Dallmayer caught seven passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown had eight receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown and Lemaster caught three for 36 yards and one touchdown.
Spann had five receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown.
Senior Antawn Nathan had one catch for a 15-yard touchdown.
The Blue Lions had seven turnovers to two for the Cougars.
Washington had 27 first downs to 14 for Thurgood Marshall. The Blue Lions had 11 by passing, 11 by rushing and five by penalty.
Thurgood Marshall had eight first downs rushing, two passing and four via penalty.
Washington was 2 of 17 converting on third down and 3 of 9 converting on fourth down.
Thurgood Marshall was 2 for 10 and 0 for 4, respectively.
Thurgood Marshall was penalized 17 times for 135 yards to 8 for 90 yards for Washington.
Lemaster punted twice in the game for a 29.5-yard average.
Quesada punted four times for a 30.3-yard average.
Defensively for the Blue Lions, Tackage led in tackles with 6.
Junior Rishaun Burns had 5.5 tackles, Virts and Brown each had 4 tackles; Brown had one interception; senior Brandon Cubbage had 3.5 tackles and freshman Mason Coffman had 3 tackles.
Coffman also had four kick returns for 136 yards (a 34-yard per return average).
For Thurgood Marshall, senior Allen McCloud and senior Miguel Aguilar led, each with 9 tackles.
Spann had 6 tackles and Lander and freshman Jaylan Howard both had 4 tackles.
Notes: During the game, Dale Butler was saluted for operating the scoreboard for the 20th year for the Blue Lions.