ATLANTA — Washington County had little trouble moving the ball Friday night against St. Pius X in the GHSA Class AAA quarterfinals.
Holding on to the ball? Well that was a different story.
The Golden Hawks (11-2) turned the ball over four times and had a costly mishap that ended a late drive and eventually lost 40-35 to St. Pius X.
The Golden Lions (11-2) will play North Hall, which stomped Peach County 51-10, in the state semifinals.
“Devastating, just a devastating feeling,” Washington County head coach Joel Ingram said. “I feel bad for my players, my seniors. This season is the most fun I’ve ever had coaching.”
Washington County back Melvin Hill rushed for 216 yards and three long touchdown runs in the defeat.
“They have an unbelievable offense,” St. Pius head coach Paul Standard said. “Their quarterback (William Walker) is one of the best runners I have ever seen. We didn’t make many stops, but we made enough.”
The biggest stop came in the fourth quarter with the Golden Hawks trailing by six points.
After an interception at midfield, Washington County moved the ball inside the St. Pius 20-yard line on a 35-yard run by Hill, who had seven runs of longer than 10 yards in the game.
The Golden Lions’ defense stood their ground though, and they forced Washington County into a fourth-and-1 inside the 10. A bad snap, however, sailed over Walker’s head, and he retreated to the 26 to recover the ball. On the very next play, St. Pius broke off a
73-yard run to get all the way to the Washington County 1. The Golden Lions scored on the next play and led 40-28 with 9:20 to play.
“You just can’t shoot yourself in the foot,” Ingram said. “It’s no one guy’s fault because we put the ball on the ground a lot. But that’s a pretty rough momentum changer.”
The Golden Hawks battled back to score on a touchdown pass from Walker to D.T. Latimer with under three minutes to play. Down 40-35, the Golden Hawks couldn’t recover an onside kick, and they eventually jumped offside on a fourth-and-1 with just over a minute to play to give St. Pius a game-clinching fresh set of downs.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” Ingram said. “We got back to the quarterfinals. It will probably take a day or two to set in. I just hate that we came all this way and did some uncharacteristic things we haven’t done all year.”
S.C. CLASS AA, DIVISION I
DILLON 21, FAIRFIELD CENTRAL 6
In Columbia, freshman Avery McCall threw three first-half touchdowns to lead Dillon over Fairfield Central for the state championship.
The Wildcats (13-1) won their third state championship in five years.
S.C. CLASS AA, DIVISION II
BISHOP ENGLAND 21, ABBEVILLE 0
In Columbia, Kevin Herbst rushed for 132 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns as Bishop England won its second consecutive state championship. The Bishops also posted a shutout in the finals last year.