Things didn’t look too good for George Washington deep into Friday’s showdown game with city rival Capital.
The Patriots trailed 13-0 about halfway into the third quarter and weren’t able to string together enough plays to threaten the end zone. But just like they shrugged off their slow start to the season, the Patriots persevered.
R.T. Alexander threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brayden McCallister with 6:20 left in the game Friday, giving GW a 20-16 comeback victory and ensured that the Patriots will be playing at home in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs next week.
“I’m proud of my kids,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “They found a way to do it. Our upperclassmen pulled us out. They started playing better and you’re only as good as your seniors. We’re going to go as far as they want us to.
“It’s a good win, it’s a big win. It really is. We’re happy for our community up here. We get to play at home. We’re in the tournament, and that’s been our main goal all year long. We want to stay in it as long as we can.’’
George Washington (7-3), which rebounded from an 0-2 start to the season, came into the game seventh in the AAA ratings and will remain in the top half of the 16-team field when the SSAC releases its official final ratings on Saturday. According to unofficial figures compiled by Ed Forshey of WVtailgatecentral.com, GW will remain at No. 7 and host No. 10 Huntington in the first round, while Capital falls to the 11th seed and visits No. 6 Wheeling Park.
Alexander threw a pair of TD passes and ran for a score Friday as GW rallied from its early deficit to take a 14-13 lead before the third quarter ended.
Capital (5-5), which entered the game 10th in the AAA ratings, grabbed a 16-14 advantage on a 27-yard Logan Spurlock field goal with 9:57 remaining in the game. But the Cougars got only one more possession after that and went three and out after Alexander’s winning pass to McCallister.
Despite their early lead, the Cougars thwarted their own chances by racking up 13 penalties for 94 yards. Five times they jumped off on defense, three times giving GW first downs in the process.
“Too many mistakes,’’ said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. “This is one that makes you want to go find a bridge and jump off. A lot of soul searching to do. We’re better than our record. Everyone who’s beaten us is good. But it all falls on the head coach. I did a piss-poor job.’’
GW’s winning drive covered 65 yards in nine plays in the fourth quarter, with Alexander completing 3 of 6 passes for 39 yards and running thrice for 16 yards. The Patriots converted a fourth and 1 and a third and 5 during the possession.
Then, after Capital punted it away on its ensuing drive, Alexander and sophomore Hasten Pinkerton took turns pounding the ball at the Capital line to chew up the clock. Alexander had a 15-yard gain to pick up one first down and found a diving Alex Mazelon for 10 yards on third and 6 to help salt it away.
Pinkerton, who come into the backfield after starter D’Anthony Wright suffered an arm injury in the first quarter, ran 13 times for 79 key yards. Alexander, not known much as a runner in his career, added 49 yards on 13 attempts.
“When coach calls my play, I know I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, and get it out there,’’ Alexander said. “We practice really hard and I’ve really strived working on my running skills, and proved it tonight.’’
The first half was scoreless for a long time until Capital’s defense stepped to the fore midway into the second quarter.
Spurlock stepped in front of an Alexander pass in the left flat and returned it down the sideline 75 yards for a touchdown with 7:10 left in the first half to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
GW’s next possession also appeared promising until Capital’s Chris Crowder picked off an attempted screen pass by Alexander at his own 12 with 3:27 remaining in the half.
Those weren’t the only pitfalls for the Patriots in the first half. Their second possession of the game was particularly perplexing.
On that drive, they dropped a sure touchdown pass on a long heave from Alexander, then had gains of 20 and 37 yards wiped out by offensive penalties. Finally, leading rusher Wright suffered an arm injury on a third-and-22 carry and did not return to the game.
Capital bumped its lead to 13-0 on its first possession of the second half, with Tay Calloway scoring on a 3-yard run. Calloway led the Cougars on the ground with 103 yards on 20 carries.