Washington made the biggest play of his senior season (at least thus far) in the game's final minute with Stamford trailing 26-21 and facing a fourth-and-10 situation from the New Deal 28-yard line. Quarterback Bo Wimberly threw to Washington on a short crossing route and left the rest up to the defending 200-meter state track champion.
"There were 45 seconds left in the game and we've either got to get a first down or it's over," Hutchinson said of Washington's game-winning touchdown. "We call a little shallow route with him, and he broke open as he came by the mike linebacker and the quarterback dumped it off to him. Of course, James used his speed to get to the sideline and burst down the sideline for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game. It was pretty awesome."
Washington then caught a two-point conversion pass for the final score 29-26.
It was the third touchdown reception of the game for Washington, who finished with 12 catches for 134 yards. He caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give Stamford an early 7-0 lead (oh, by the way, that drive started with a Washington interception and return of nearly 40 yards). He also had a 10-yard scoring catch in the third quarter to tie the score 20-20 and then put the Bulldogs ahead with his extra-point kick (his third of the game).
"He's explosive. He can score at any second," Hutchinson said.
But Washington was almost the goat instead of the hero. He fumbled inside the 10-yard line after catching a screen pass early in the fourth quarter and New Deal took over with 9:24 to play. New Deal led 26-21 and used up more than seven minutes before Stamford used a key fourth-down stop to take over on its own 23.
That led to the 77-yard drive which culminated in Washington's game-winning touchdown catch and run.
"Of course, he was highly upset about that fumble but he made up for it later," Hutchinson said.
The Bulldogs, 12-1, will play Hico, 13-1, at 3 p.m. Saturday at San Angelo with the winner advancing to the Class A Division I state championship game at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) in Arlington, Texas.
In three playoff games, Washington has 20 catches for 404 receiving yards (20.2 yard average) with nine touchdowns. He also has a rushing TD.
"The last district ballgame we won 24-21, and went back and looked at our stats and noticed James didn't touch the ball enough. Of course, we have him at X-receiver, and they start double teaming and triple teaming him, but we decided we need to get this guy the ball more because the more times you get it in his hands good things happen," Hutchinson said.
"We put in a couple of formations where we're a little more creative in getting him the ball more, and it's caused people to not be able to number one, man up on him because we're sending him in motion and doing some things, and number two, it's kinda kept people from taking half of our offense away where we just had him sitting there at X-receiver. So he's been very active here lately because we've been moving him around and getting him the ball a whole lot more, because of that we're continuing to play."
The Stamford head coach says he's looking forward to what Washington can do in what he hopes are two more games before the talented athlete signs with Oklahoma State in February.
"He does everything we've asked him to do, and he's stepped up both offensively and defensively. Of course, people are trying to adjust to where he is on offense, and we've got good enough people surrounding him that we can get the ball in their hands too and they can create a lot of plays. But that's happening because of how much attention they have to pay to James," he said.
Through 13 games this season, Washington has 64 catches for 1,229 receiving yards for 26 touchdowns. He also has three rushing TDs and has scored 36 points in the kicking game (one field goal and 33 extra-point conversions).
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