After Washington crushed Galileo last week, many coming to Eagle Stadium were expecting a similar result on Thursday, but instead saw an inspired Lions team nearly pull off the upset without star running back Quincy Nelson.
But Jeremy Jetton’s interception with 1:34 remaining in the game sealed Washington’s third Turkey Day appearance in four years as the Eagles held off a gritty Galileo bunch 19-13 in the CIF-San Francisco Section-Academic Athletic Association semifinals.
Washington will meet Balboa, a 28-8 winner against Mission, on Thanksgiving for the city championship.
“It’s almost a little surreal right now and it’s a wonderful thing to keep going,” Washington head coach Karl Finley said. “It’s a testament to the kids’ hard work, as well as the assistant coaches.”
Washington overcame six turnovers, including four fumbles, to beat Galileo for the second week in a row.
“[If] you take the turnovers away, we played a solid game,” Finley said. “Our kids were trying so hard to get the extra yard that we fumbled.”
The turnovers kept the Lions in the game throughout.
With 10:54 left in the second quarter and Washington up 6-0, Lions defensive back Wesley Choy stepped in front of Eagles quarterback Aram Gevandian’s pass and took it down to the Eagles’ 20-yard line.
Five plays later, Lions quarterback Jonathan Lu punched it in from 1 yard out to give the Lions a 7-6 lead.
The defending AAA champions came out of halftime and put together a seven-play, 73-yard drive to tie the game at 13-13 with 8:57 left in the third quarter.
“We wanted our boys to be competitive, so I’m proud of the way they fought,” Galileo head coach Mark Huynh said. “Our mind-set coming into today was a lot different than last week.”
Washington though, sensing an urgency to put the Lions away, scored the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing drive on Lajarie Mabrey’s third touchdown of the game with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
After Washington’s Chris Jackson fumbled at the Lions’ 9-yard line, Galileo had 3:57 remaining to mount a game-winning drive.
From the Eagles’ 36-yard line, Lu’s pass intended for wide receiver Waynelle Buckner was picked by Jetton, and Washington would run out the final 1:34, setting up another trip to the Thanksgiving Day game.
Jetton led the Eagles’ rushing attack with 107 yards on 16 carries, and Gevendian was 7-of-8 through the air for 101 yards with one interception.
After watching his team rebound from last week’s drubbing, Huynh was proud of his team’s effort.
“Washington is a heck of a team and for us to hold them to 19 points is a testament to our team’s fight,” Huynh said. “The season was a roller coaster with the injuries that we had, but we made the playoffs two years in a row. We’re excited about our program and what’s coming up in the next year.”
For Washington, they’ll be trying to help Finley capture his first championship, a feat that has eluded the Eagles since 2004.
“We’ve been knocking on that door since I’ve been here,” said a giddy Finley. “Hopefully we’ll knock that door down.”
BALBOA STUNS MISSION
Balboa decisively avenged a regular-season loss to Mission with a 28-8 semifinal victory over the Bears, upsetting the No. 1 seed and earning the school its first Turkey Day appearance since 2005.
Mission beat Balboa 50-38 during the regular season, but the Buccaneers defense came to play Thursday.
Led by senior running back Greg Warren, who finished with 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns, the Bucs dominated field position and time of possession throughout.
Ernest Stone contributed to this report.
Preps sports coverage provided in partnership by The San Francisco Examiner and www.SanFranPreps.com