MOUNT PLEASANT — It was a thriller at Mapleleaf Athletic Complex Friday as the Panthers hosted rival Washington in the final game of the year. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, it didn’t have the storybook ending the Panthers were looking for. Washington missed its storybook ending as well when it was left out of the postseason.
Washington came back from an early 10-0 deficit to beat Mt. Pleasant 28-23, their second-straight one-possession win in the rivalry.
Mt. Pleasant began the game with a bang. Zach Beason launched a deep pass to Rylan Seberg down the Washington sideline, and Seberg caught the pass and went all the way to the seven-yard line for a 61-yard reception.
The Demon defense held the Panthers to just a field goal attempt, but Khang Truong nailed the kick and it was 3-0 Panthers early.
Later on in the first quarter, the Panthers scored again. After a botched Demon snap, James DeMeyer recovered a fumble in Washington territory, and that led to Mt. Pleasant’s first touchdown. Beason went in for a two-yard touchdown run, and it was 10-0 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
Luke Turner and the Demon offense marched down to cut the lead on their next possession. The Panthers had Washington fourth-and-goal from the 9, but Turner scrambled around and eventually found Cade Hennigen in the back of the end zone for a 10-7 deficit.
Much like Mt. Pleasant did in the first quarter, Washington capitalized on a fumble recovery in the second. The Demons forced a fumble by Beason with 5:14 on the clock, and turned that into seven points. This time, it was Spencer Sotelo who punched in a touchdown, going in from the 3. Washington led 14-10 in the final three minutes of the second quarter.
Washington had another potential scoring drive stalled at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half.
After missing a field goal earlier in the game, the Demons converted on fourth down in the red zone. A few plays later, however, the Demons ran out of time. Washington was a yard short of a score in the final 10 seconds, and the Demons had no timeouts. The time ran out before Washington could get back to the line, and it was 14-10 Demons at the half.
The Demons had their biggest play of the night in the third quarter. Turner unloaded on an option pass play and found Ethan Hunt for a 77-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was good and Washington led 21-10.
Mt. Pleasant scored again on a 10-yard touchdown run by Beason with 4:23 on the clock. After three quarters, it was 21-17 Washington.
The Demons went back up two possessions with 7:57 left in the game. Hennigen scored on a 2-yard end-around and the Demon lead was 28-17.
Mt. Pleasant needed to score fast, and the Panthers did just that. Tucker Johnson made a leaping catch on fourth down to keep the drive alive, and Seberg scored on a 20-yard touchdown. The two-point attempt was no good, but the Panthers had life, trailing 28-23 with 5:33 on the clock and three timeouts.
Washington didn’t opt to go conservative. The Demons kept the playbook open and got first down after first down to keep the clock running. Once again, it was Turner’s legs that kept the Panther defense on their heels.
“I certainly wasn’t going to call off Coach (Don) Miksch the way we were moving the ball,” Washington head coach James Harris said about the final drive. “(Mt. Pleasant) coach (Mike) Wilson’s defense always plays the run so tough, and we’ve just played so many games that have come down to the wire. We’re just going to keep playing.”
The Demons drove the field and took the ball all the way to the 1-yard line. On fourth-and-goal with just a handful of seconds left, Turner turned around and ran away from the Panther defense until the final buzzer sounded.
“It’s never good to end the season with a loss, especially in a rivalry like Washington versus Mt. Pleasant,” Panther head coach Shawn Striegel said. “It was pretty hard on the kids. It was devastating.”
Beason went 16 of 32 for 234 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team with 62 rushing yards and two scores.
Seberg finished the night with 99-yards receiving and one touchdown. Johnson had 54 yards on two catches. Lamm finished with five catches for 41 yards. Levi Puig caught five passes for 40 yards, and ran for 31.
The Demons were led by Turner, who went 22 of 37 for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and added 31 yards rushing.
“Every time we thought he had him sacked, he would make a throw down field or he would wiggle free and run for a first down.” Striegel said about the Washington QB. “For the most part, he was a challenge all night long.”
Hunt finished the night with 114 yards receiving and one touchdown on five catches. Hennigen caught eight passes for 106 yards and a score. Kolten Hinrichsen caught four passes for 48 yards. Soleto had 40 yards and a score on the ground, and added 32 yards through the air on two catches.
“We just kept on grinding,” Harris said about his Demon squad. “I can’t say enough about Coach Miksch and our offensive staff, and what they did there. The game plan was excellent.”
Washington ended the year 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the district for second place. Mt. Pleasant was 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the district for a third-place finish.