Maurice Barton raised both his arms and kept running after he crossed the goal line, four years of frustration oozing out as a trail of celebrating Washington players followed him toward the Eagles’ bench.
The senior running back’s 31-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter was the final score in Washington’s 34-16 win over Lowell in the San Francisco Section semifinals, and shortly thereafter the call came from the Eagles’ sideline.
“Where you gonna be on Thanksgiving, Washington?” a player shouted. “Where you gonna be?”
The third-seeded Eagles (7-3) will be at Kezar Stadium on Thanksgiving, set for an 11 a.m. Turkey Bowl kickoff against rival and top-seeded Lincoln. And once the final whistle sounded, the emotions came quickly for Barton (21 carries, 180 yards, three touchdowns), a former Washington water boy who was helping out when the Eagleswon the title in 1999 and 2000 but saw the program take a downturn in recent seasons.
“All those guys always used to tell me words can’t explain how it feels to make it to Turkey Day,” Barton said. “The tears started coming down and the smile kept getting bigger. We finally played Eagle football.”
Washington went 3-7 and missed the playoffs in each of Barton’s first two years on the varsity, but was sparked by the arrival of new coach Karl Finley this spring. Thursday’s result made the turnaround complete as the Eagles went up 28-0 and were never seriously threatened against a Lowell team that had rolled up 462 yards on the ground in a 51-14 win when the two teams played during the regular season.
“That was our worst game, the lowest we were all year,” Washington quarterback Derf Butler said of the Sept. 28 loss. “But the coaches made some great adjustments on defense and we came in to this game focused and knowing we could win.”</p>
Butler helped Washington surge to the big lead, throwing for three touchdowns before the end of the third quarter and finishing with 101 yards passing. His 9-yard scoring pass to Chris Marshall late in the second quarter was the backbreaker, as the senior rolled left to avoid a sack, slipped but propped himself up with his right hand, moved to his right and found Marshall all alone to give Washington a 20-0 halftime advantage.
Senior Bismark Navarro had 139 yards on 23 carries for Lowell (6-2), which cut the lead to 28-16 midway through the fourth quarter but lacked the big-play ability to make a late comeback. The Cardinals didn’t complete a pass and managed just two plays over 10 yards all game.
“We didn’t score until the third quarter and that made it tough for us,” Lowell coach Danny Chan said. “And give them credit. They’ve got a lot of good players over there.”
Washington 34, Lowell 16
Washington 14 6 8 6 — 34
Lowell 0 0 8 8 — 16
W—Maurice Barton 21 run (kick failed), 9:26
W—Anthony Marshall 37 pass from Derf Butler (Butler run), 4:23
W—Anthony Marshall 9 pass from Butler (pass failed), :12.4
W—Solomon Walker 10 pass from Butler (Barton run), 5:52
L—Vieje Piauwasdy 6 run (Shant Siyahian run), 2:43
L—Amanuel Zerihun 2 run (Siyahian run), 6:16
W—Barton 31 run (run failed), 1:07
RUSHING—Washington: Maurice Barton 21-180, Grandville Taylor 4-13, Derf Butler 4-11, Chris Marshall 2-3, De’mon Jones 1-1, Solomon Walker 1-1. Lowell: Bismark Navarro 23-139, Vieje Piauwasdy 20-66, Jairo Rueda 6-22, Robert Feng 2-9, Andrew Lee 2-8, Francis John 3-7, Oliver Wang 1-5, Shant Siyahian 1-4, Spencer MacDonald 1-3, Matt Jew 2-(minus-5), Amanuel Zeryihun 3-(minus-6).
PASSING—Washington: Butler 8-13-0-101. Lowell: Jew 0-3-0-0. Zeryihun 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Washington: Anthony Marshall 3-58, Walker 2-24, Barton 2-10, Chris Marshall 1-9.