The way George Washington is playing this season, every home game is homecoming. And the Patriots saved a little something special for the actual event on Friday night.
R.T. Alexander threw three touchdown passes and GW led from start to finish but had to hold off Parkersburg 34-21 to highlight homecoming festivities at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.
The Patriots (4-3) are unbeaten at home this year, winning all four of their starts. They needed the extra juice at the end Friday, as the Big Reds (3-3) shaved their game-long deficit back to 28-21 with 5:51 left to play on a 19-yard scoring pass from Bryson Singer to Sam Potts and had two more possessions, but couldn’t cash in.
The game ended with a pair of wild lateral-filled plays by Parkersburg, the first one negated by off-setting penalties. On the final one from the Big Reds 31 with no time on the clock, the ball was fumbled along the sideline during another lateral sequence and GW’s Kristian Hussell returned it for a touchdown to set the final score.
“Our student section is loud and we love our home people,’’ Alexander said. “We’re on our home field, and it’s something different.’’
Alexander completed 17 of 28 passes for 250 yards, finding Brayden McCallister with touchdown tosses of 6 and 23 yards in the first quarter, and Alex Mazelon with a 21-yarder in the third quarter as GW went up 21-0.
GW spent much of the game getting itself in unfavorable third-and-long situations, then converting. The Patriots picked up first downs on third and 5, third and 9, third and 13, third and 20, fourth and 2, and even scored a TD on second and 13.
“We practice that all day in practice with the deeper routes,’’ Alexander said. “We just made sure we would connect 100 percent, and just followed through.
“They’re making great catches. I’m just putting it in an area where they can catch it, and they did it.’’
McCallister wound up with seven catches for 97 yards, Mazelon five for 82 and homecoming king Luke Grimm grabbed five balls for 71 yards.
Parkersburg was its own worst enemy at times, committing turnovers on each of the two possessions where it crossed midfield in the first half, twice lining up offside on offense before the ball was snapped and being flagged twice in a row for false starts on a fourth-quarter punt. The Big Reds had 10 penalties.
“We came out flat,’’ said coach Mike Byus, “and I don’t know if you can call it the off week or call it the traveling, but mentally we were not ready to play. We played a little bit of defense in the first half, but we didn’t play any offense. We executed nothing well and kept shooting ourselves in the foot.
“We score those 21 points in the first half, then we’ve got a game. I’m disappointed, but also encouraged with the fight at the end. They played with great effort in the fourth quarter and turned it on. I don’t know where the switch was flipped, but the bottom line is it’s a 48-minute game and we didn’t play 48 minutes.’’
Singer, a sophomore, had a 64-yard TD burst for Parkersburg after it fell behind 21-0 in the third quarter, and Braeden Mason returned a kickoff 93 yards for another Big Reds score. Singer ran 18 times for 143 yards and was 7 of 19 passing for 57 yards.
Parkersburg came into the game 10th in the SSAC Class AAA playoff ratings, two spots ahead of GW. The top 16 in each class qualify for postseason play, and the top eight get choice of home field in the first round.
Much like last week’s overtime victory against Hurricane — when it rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter — GW was on fire to start the game, taking a 14-0 halftime lead by getting touchdowns on its first two possessions.
Alexander found McCallister twice for scoring passes of 6 and 23 yards in the first quarter, and that’s the way it remained until the break. Alexander finished the first half 9 of 16 for 133 yards.
Parkersburg’s best chances at scoring in the first half both ended in turnovers.
The Big Reds got inside the GW 40-yard line in the second quarter, but Singer lost a fumble. Then, after Xadrian Snodgrass thwarted a GW drive by intercepting a pass and returning it 39 yards to the Patriots 38, Singer was picked off on third down by GW’s Isaac Isabell with less than a minute to play.
Parkersburg managed just 74 first-half yards, with Singer going 1 of 9 for 6 yards with an interception.
Isabell ended with seven carries for 54 yards and picked off a pass for GW.