'It got real crazy': Big play helps Washington football beat rival Metamora in a big way
WASHINGTON — Carter Prina has time to make more big plays and gain perspective on what he did Friday at Babcook Field.
Washington, meanwhile, didn't have any more time to wait for its first victory of the season, coming in at 0-2 and desperately needing to avoid what would have been the first 0-3 start in coach Darrell Crouch's 18 years at the helm.
But Prina made a huge play against bitter rival Metamora, turned the game, and perhaps helped save a season as the Panthers rolled to a 44-22 win in their annual Mid-Illini Conference battle.
"It was a pretty exciting moment," said Prina, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound tight end/defensive end for Washington. "I thought he was going to run it, then he tried to kick it, and well … then it got really crazy."
Metamora had rallied to force a 16-16 tie when quarterback Kaden Hartnett threw a 23-yard strike over the middle to Broderick Schroers with 2:14 left in the first half.
Washington opened the second half with three-and-out, and Metamora had the ball and the momentum.
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But Elijah Papis sacked Hartnett for a 14-yard loss, forcing a punt. They lined up, ball snapped, and Hartnett ran to his right, then tried to punt on the run.
Prina swarmed in and blocked the kick, then chased the ball as it bounced toward the end zone. He recovered it and emerged from a scramble with a touchdown and a 23-16 lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter.
Metamora was never really the same after that.
Washington stopped them on three plays in the ensuing series, forced another punt, and again blocked it, this time by Garrett Cox.
One play later, Washington quarterback Jake Stewart tossed a 29-yard TD to A.J. Jones and it was 30-16 in the blink of an eye.
"I played on the offensive and defensive units tonight as well," said Prina, whose father, Brian, played football for Washington and went on to play baseball for Eastern Illinois. "We knew Metamora had a good team, knew what we had to do to beat them.
"I know what a big play the punt block was. It was a thrill, but I believe I have more big plays ahead of me, and our team will have more moments of glory."
Big Ben and the Redbirds
Metamora offensive/defensive lineman Ben Wallace is a numbers guy, and while the numbers didn't add up favorably on the scoreboard Friday, the calculus for a college choice did lead him to Illinois State.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive/defensive lineman committed recently to Illinois State.
"I chose ISU because they have a great education program and I want to be a teacher, want to teach math," Wallace said. "My dad is an engineer. Math is something we've always enjoyed. And helping others is something I love to do, too, and I can do that through teaching."
Wallace said the commitment to ISU helped him in another way, too.
"That decision is made now and I can focus on playing my final season with Metamora," Wallace said. "We're going to get back to playing Metamora football. I believe in this team."
Big battle moments
Metamora opened the game with an 80-yard drive, capped by a 19-yard TD catch from Noah Symmonds for 8-0.
Washington drove to the Redbirds 32, but quarterback Stewart was picked off by Metamora QB/DB Kaden Hartnett.
It backfired on Metamora, though, as Hartnett was flagged a few plays later for intentional grounding from the end zone, which awarded a safety to Washington.
After the ensuing free kick, Washington needed one play to take a 9-8 lead, as Kainon McQueary raced 45 yards for a TD with 4:16 left in the first quarter. McQueary capped a 13-play drive with a bruising 3-yard run in which he flattened Seth Carbaugh and dove inside the left pylon for a 16-8 lead midway through the second quarter.
Metamora sophomore running back Mark Frederick tight-roped the right sideline for an 80-yard TD run to cut the Redbirds' deficit to 30-22 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
Washington's answering series included a 58-yard keeper by Stewart, and a TD run from the 5 by Jase Harlan for 37-22 with 97 seconds left in the third quarter.
By the numbers
Washington quarterback Jake Stewart ran nine times for 83 yards and a TD, and was 2 of 4 passing for 50 yards, with a TD and INT. … Kainon McQueary delivered 16 carries for 113 yards and two TDs for Washington. … Metamora quarterback Kaden Hartnett was 7 of 16 passing for 103 yards and 2 TD. … Redbirds running back Mark Frederick ran eight times for 140 yards and a TD. … Washington (1-2, 1-0) is at Pekin next. The last time the Panthers were 1-2 after their first three games was in 2006-07. … Metamora (1-2, 0-1) hosts Morton.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.