There had been little to cheer this season among Washington High’s football team.
Tyree Jackson changed that Friday night.
He produced a full year of highlight plays wrapped around the Wildcats 35-7 victory against Catholic at Gorecki-LeBeau Stadium for a breakthrough first win.
Jackson, a senior tailback, who admitted he struggled with enjoying football this year, rushed for 244 yards and scored four touchdowns.
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“That was the Tyree we saw last year,” said Washington coach Charlie Ward. “We really had not seen that Tyree until (last night). It was very encouraging.. That is the Tyree we saw last year all the time.”
Late in the first half, Jackson showed his greatest potential.
On a sprint draw handoff from his 41, he burst through the line, then broke what seemed the entire Catholic defense worth of tackles, while juking and cutting back on a 59 yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining.
It was a run worth saving in video archive. Or presenting to college recruiters. It gave Washington (1-8) a 14-0 halftime lead.
“That was a miracle…. that’s what that was,” he said, smiling afterward. “I thought I was tackled, honestly. I kept going, I kept running hard. I wasn’t expecting that all. That was amazing really.”
Jackson had scored the game’s first touchdown on Washington’s previous possession. After the Wildcats thwarted Catholic’s fake punt attempt, they turned a short field into a six play, 45-yard scoring drive that Jackson completed on an end-around from the 6.
He then answered Catholic’s lone touchdown and emotion surge with a 27-yard run with 9:47 left. Washington had a pair of long drives, fueled by sophomore Garrett Foley who delivered a strong performance with several outstanding throws downfield.
In getting a first win, thus assuring there won’t be a winless season, brought enough joy that the Wildcats’ celebrated by hoisting the trophy provided in the televised game of week.
“It helps us,” Jackson said. “I know I have been going through a tough time mentally… not knowing if I wanted to play, but I kept pushing.”
Ward is hoping the big win can change the whole outlook with his team. His roster has been pared to less than half of its August numbers.
Ward, the 1993 Heisman Trophy winner and wondrous quarterback on Florida State’s 1993 national championship team, has seen the promise in flickers until a full beam last night. His players wanted to douse him with ice water, but Ward is way too nimble for that.
“When you go through the type of season we have been through …. we haven’t had the success we were looking for, “ he said. “But guys have been working real hard and and improving.. We were able to make some quality plays on offense and defense.”
“The defense did a great job of keeping their offense under check… It was good. It was good for us to taste some success.”
The Crusaders (2-7), who celebrated their senior night and honored all senior fall sport athletes, along with cheerleaders, band and support groups at halftime, had short possessions the entire first half.
But they were able produce a long scoring drive that ended with sophomore Jaylen Fortune going around end for a 30-yard score with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Washington came right back on an 80-yard drive in seven plays that extended a three touchdown lead and took any emotional surge from Catholic.
Both teams battled roster issues. The Crusaders have been beset with a variety of attrition, including several starters lost to injury.