Fumbles knock out Eagles

Adam Larck
Conner Currier dives for a touchdown in the first quarter against Washington on Friday. The Eagles were knocked out of the playoffs, 34-14.

A few key losses helped Washington advance to the Sweet 16 over Dunlap Friday night at Babcook Field, 34-14.

With 25 seconds to go before half, the Eagles had the ball at the 3-yard line. Dunlap tried to run a trick play, but Brett Renner’s pass was picked off by Washington’s Chris Friend, killing the momentum the Eagles had and sending the game to halftime with Washington leading, 13-6.

“That was a bad call by me,” Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet said. “I didn’t put our kids in a position to succeed, and that’s what you hope to do as a coach.”

The other losses for the Eagles came in the fourth quarter off Conner Currier. A fumbled snap and a hard hit gave Washington the ball twice to run out the clock.

“It was a sloppy game,” Cazalet said. “We were turning it over, they were turning it over. But, I think that’s just indicative of, we know each other so well that they know what we’re going to do and we know what they’re going to do. They made plays at the right time and up front they’re big and physical.”

The game started off sloppy as well, just for the Panthers instead of the Eagles.

Dunlap came out with an onside kick to start the game, which the Eagles recovered after the Washington receiver fumbled the ball at their own 36.

After marching down to the 22-yard line, a botched hike moved Dunlap back to the 36.

The Eagles punted away, but regained possession after Washington fumbled the punt at the 10.

“The fumbles surprised me,” Washington coach Darrell Crouch said. “We had a really good week.”

After a false start, Dunlap capitalized on the recovery off a 15-yard Currier run to make it 6-0.

On the Panther’s first possession, Kyle Zimmerman had a 60-yard run to the 1-yard line before fumbling the ball. Washington would recover, and Washington quarterback Isaac Fisher punched it in for a touchdown. However, the point-after kick hit a lineman in the back to tie the game at 6-all.

“It went both ways,” Crouch said of the fumbles. “Nobody really wanted to keep the ball. That’s very not typical of us. I know our running backs and fullbacks will not have a fun week on Monday and Tuesday.”

Dunlap went 3-and-out on its next possession, while Brent Brown slipped through three tackles to give Washington a 13-6 lead.

This would be the last score of the half.

The Panthers had a few opportunities to drive, but Derrick Smith had three big pass blocks each time to stall the drives.

“Isaac threw some deep balls and got a little greedy in the first half,” Crouch said.” They were there; it was either going to be a great catch or a break-up.”

Meanwhile, Dunlap was forced to punt away twice, tried and failed a fourth-down conversion, and had the pass intercepted by Friend near the end of the half.

“Chris Friend had a good night, too,” Crouch said. “He had a couple of good shots and then he had that pick.”

Dunlap started the third quarter off with the ball, but a hard hit to Currier jarred the ball loose for Washington to recover.

The Panthers would eventually score with 7 minutes, 11 seconds to go in the third on a 1-yard Fisher pass to Dakota Bullard, making it 20-6.

After Dunlap punted the ball away again, Washington started with a short field that Fisher took advantage of, scoring on a 23-yard run to increase the lead to 27-6.

The Eagles would score one more time in the third on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Treston Fowler, cutting the lead to 27-14.

After Dunlap fumbled early in the fourth, Washington ran the clock down to 3:15 on multiple runs by Zimmerman and Fisher, and even a few by Brad Kuchenbecker, who was moved to fullback for the drive.

“We put Brad at fullback on offensive guard just to get another blocker and put a sophomore in at his spot,” Crouch said. “We ran a lot of (isolation) weak (side) with Brad leading for him.”

The Panthers ended the drive on a failed fourth-down conversion at the Eagles 22, but regained the ball at the 47 after a fumble.

Washington put the finishing touches on the game with a 40-yard pass to Kyle Clark.

“It doesn’t matter if you lose by 20 or if you lose by one, it hurts,” Cazalet said. “We battled hard, we played hard. Things just didn’t go our way.”

For Washington, Fisher finished with 165 passing yards, while Zimmerman had 113 yards rushing. Kuchenbecker had three sacks.

Meanwhile, Currier threw for 198 yards for the Eagles. Fowler had 79 receiving yards, while Davion McManis had 48 yards and Nick Mangieri had 34 yards.

Smith also lead the team with 22 rushing yards on two attempts. Currier had 14 rushes for 16 yards.

Both teams had five fumbles and lost three.

Washington will travel to Rich East this weekend, which upset Metamora on Saturday.

“We’re Sweet 16, so that’s huge,” Crouch said.

Dunlap finishes the season at 6-4 overall.