Washington’s defense hangs tough

There was no big speech in the Washington defensive huddle, no last-minute words of inspiration.

Late in the fourth quarter with Mission driving for the potential go-ahead score, the Eagles just knew they needed a stop. And with the Bears facing a fourth-and-4 from the Washington 34 with less than 2 minutes remaining, Grandville Taylor made sure it happened. The junior linebacker slashed through the Mission blockers to tackle elusive quarterback Harry Howard for no gain, sealing the host Eagles’ 15-12 Academic Athletic Association football win Thursday.

“We had to get it together and make one last play,” Taylor said. “I saw their QB starting to scramble and I knew I had to stop him. I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Washington (3-2, 1-1 AAA) led 15-0 at halftime and seemed to be in control when the inspired Bears began their comeback early in the third quarter. Howard (89 yards passing, 26 rushing) capped Mission’s first drive of the second half with a 25-yard touchdown strike to Demaree Hampton.

The Bears (2-2, 0-2) failed to convert the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, but they stayed close due to a relentless defense led by Ronell Foster (three sacks) that forced two second-half turnovers and held Washington to 67 yards of offense after intermission. A 31-yard touchdown run by Vincent Harris midway through the fourth quarter made it 15-12 and Mission got the ball back at its own 37 with 3:47 to go after Foster recovered a fumble. Howard led the Bears down to the Washington 34, but that’s where the drive ended.

“We knew we had to go as hard as we could and push ourselves to the limit,” Washington tight end-linebacker Solomon Walker said. “And getting that first league win feels great.”

Walker put the Eagles ahead 15-0 in the first half, as the junior hauled in a tight end screen from Derf Butler and made a nice hesitation move before sprinting down the right sideline for a 25-yard score. Chris Marshall had Washington’s first touchdown, taking an inside handoff and running in from 12 yards out.

Taylor led Washington with 80 yards rushing while Butler was 5-of-10 passing for 70 yards and the touchdown. Harris finished with 67 hard yards for Mission, but the game was dominated by the defenses. Neither team was able to generate much offense as Mission finished with 199 yards and Washington 193.

“They about gave me a heart attack,” Eagles coach Karl Finley said. “Mission did a great job, and I’m so proud of our defense to come through like that in the end.”

Washington 15, Mission 12

melliser@examiner.com

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