By Bonta Hill
After the first play from scrimmage, it seemed like Washington High School would breeze through its season opener, but unfortunately the Eagles’ special teams play was far from smooth.
Washington senior running back Jaime McHenry took a handoff through the right side of the line for a 68-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game, but it was a number of mistakes that sunk the Eagles in a 29-19 loss to visiting El Camino of South San Francisco on Saturday.
Washington (0-1) had a field goal blocked, a punt blocked for an El Camino (1-1) touchdown, a bit of misfortune on a kickoff return, a fumbled snap deep in El Camino territory, and a mishap on a punt return.
“In the first game of the season, what you don’t want to do is commit mental mistakes,” said Washington head coach Karl Finley. “Three turnovers on special teams equaled 21 points for [El Camino]. Take away the turnovers, and we played pretty well.”
El Camino senior running back D.J. Peluso rushed for 173 yards on 20 carries, added three receptions for 55 yards and totaled three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) to lead the Colts.
“D.J. was chomping at the bit all week, because he felt like he could have played a lot better last week,” said El Camino head coach Mark Turner. “We just have to keep him calm, because he gets emotional, but when he relaxes, he’s something to deal with.”
The combination of McHenry and fellow senior Lajarie Mabrey looked promising, as each running back went over the 100-yard mark, but neither could prevent what happened on special teams, nor the impact Peluso had on the Eagle defense.
The first special teams miscue happened early in the second quarter, when Washington punter Adam Badi got his punt blocked and El Camino linebacker Omar Reyes Medina scooped up the loose ball and easily walked in for a 15-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, El Camino got a fortunate bounce when its attempted squib kick ricocheted off a Washington player and the Colts pounced on the loose ball at midfield.
After Washington closed the gap to 21-13 with 8:09 remaining in the third quarter, Peluso took El Camino’s first play of the next drive 75 yards down the left sideline for his third touchdown of the day, putting his team up 27-13.
“This week I just focused on running downhill and keeping my pads low,” Peluso said. “It feels great to get victory number one.”
Finley was in a positive mood after the game, noting that without the mistakes his team played toe-to-toe with El Camino. But, with the missteps, he knows that it will be tough to win games against any team.
“They had no turnovers, and against a good team like that you can’t turn the ball over like we did,” Finley said. “All-in-all, I thought our kids played hard. I’ll tell the team that if we can limit the mistakes, we’ll be OK.”
W: 11:45 — Jaime McHenry 68-yard run (Adam Badi kick good)
EC: 10:00 — Omar Reyes Medina 15-yard punt block return (kick failed)
EC: 8:00 — D.J. Peluso 11-yard run (Peluso run on conversion)
EC: 10:12 — Peluso 33-yard pass from Richie Mathiesen (Medina kick good)
W: 8:09 — Devin White 11-yard run (kick failed)
EC: 7:50 — Peluso 75-yard run (kick failed)
W: 1:58 — Lajarie Mabrey 6-yard run (kick failed)
EC: 7:14 — Safety