Tate Erkenbrecher, Contributor
GREENFIELD — In case anyone was still questioning why Washington’s Tanner Lemaster is as highly touted as he is, look no further than Friday night.
He has a knack for making the big play in the biggest moment of the game. And he’s added another one to his already impressive resume.
On the final play of the game and with the ball flying through the air, the 6-foot-6 junior tight end jumped up over a pair of McClain defenders and hauled in a 34-yard touchdown.
27-21. Final. Pandemonium.
Considering he did the same thing to Miami Trace last season, it might not be a surprise he was on the receiving end of the Hail Mary. However, whether it’s the first play or the final play, the blood running through his veins is pure ice.
However, the journey getting to Lemaster’s moment and the Tigers’ first loss of the season was a roller coaster.
McClain (4-1, 0-1 FAC), who has stuck to a stout running attack all season, took to the air as Braden Wright connected with Andrew Potts on a 51-yard reception to put the Tigers in the red zone. A few plays later, Luke Dhume found the endzone on a six-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers ahead 7-0.
That drive took up nearly the entire first quarter, but Washington (3-2, 1-0 FAC) responded early in the second. It went for the big play and Raleigh Haithcock found Trevaughn Jackson for a 36-yard score to tie the game up 7-7.
Playing to its strengths, the Tigers went back to the running game behind Wright, Potts and Seth Wise. The trio helped the team meticulously and methodically move down the field while chewing up over seven minutes of clock.
But they went back to the passing game as Wright hooked up with Wise, who out-jumped a Blue Lion defender for a 26-yard touchdown catch to put the Tigers ahead 13-7 at halftime following a missed point after.
Washington wasted no movements to open the third after receiving the opening kickoff. It marched down the field in eight plays as A.J. Dallmayer and Isaiah Haithcock came up with catches along the way.
In the end, it was Troy Thompson who found paydirt on a five-yard touchdown run to give the Blue Lions its first lead of the game at 14-13 heading into the final 12 minutes of the game.
This is where the drama begins to unfold.
After both teams traded empty possessions, which included McClain missing a 25-yard field goal, Washington had the ball with under six minutes left in the game.
Running back Nydrell Wright took the handoff and busted loose for a 44-yard gain before being tackled at the one-yard line. On the next play, Drew Hardy found the endzone to extend its lead to 21-13 with just over four minutes left.
However, the Tigers showed their level of tenacity and marched down the field. Led by Wright and Potts, they got the ball down to the Washington 32-yard line. Following a 16-yard catch from Kaden Penwell later followed by a huge pass interference call on Washington, Potts scored a one-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left.
The Tigers had no choice but to go for two, and Wright found a wide open Max Eikenberry in the back of the endzone to tie the game 21-21.
Yet, time still remained on the clock and Washington smartly used the sidelines to set up its chances for the win. A series of completed passes helped set up the Blue Lions in McClain territory with only a couple seconds remaining in the game.
With Thompson under center, he rolled to his right and as the clock hit triple zeros, he let it rip and Lemaster did the rest to ice the victory for the Blue Lions.
Thompson finished 19-of-26 passing for 195 yards with a touchdown and a rushing touchdown, and Raleigh Haithcock was 4-of-7 passing for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Dallmayer was the Blue Lions’ leading receiver, catching seven passes for 111 yards while Lemaster had five catches for 81 yards and the game-winning score.
For McClain, Wright finished 7-of-17 passing for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Potts had 26 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Wise had a 27-yard touchdown catch.
Washington returns to action on Friday at home against Chillicothe, while McClain travels to play at Jackson on FAC action.