PASCO - Tri-Cities Prep quarterback Evan Whitsett threw for 361 yards here Friday in Southeast 2B Conference football action.
Whitsett's last two passes went for 45- and 70-yard touchdowns, but the bid for a homecoming upset of No. 2-ranked Waitsburg-Prescott fell short as W-P escaped with a 26-20 win.
"That was too close," W-P senior co-captain Eshom Estes said. "We started out well, but (after) halftime, we came out dead. We had our intensity in the first quarter, but we just lost it."
The Jaguars took the opening kickoff and drove from their own 34 to the W-P 3. All 63 yards came through the air as Whitsett connected with 6-foot-5 Jameson Pedersen three times for 35 yards. That aerial act would repeat itself as Pedersen finished with 11 catches for 189 yards.
W-P's Dustin Wooderchak saved W-P, for the moment, as the senior defensive back gave up five inches to Pedersen, but batted the ball away on a fourth-and-goal from the 3.
Whitsett started the Jaguars' last drive of the first quarter at his own 36, and following a six-yard completion to Pedersen, T-C Prep faced first-and-goal from the W-P 2-yard line with eight minutes left in the half.
W-P's Greg Stearns stopped Whitsett for a loss of three. Estes had his first of four sacks for a loss of 12. Estes teamed with Brendan Donovan to sack Whitsett on third down for a loss of 15 and the Jaguars were fourth-and-goal from the W-P 33. Billy Brown finished the W-P defensive job with another sack as W-P took over at their own 37.
"Our defense is really strong," Estes said of the two goal-line stands. "We got in each other's faces and told each other that we needed to stop them and we needed to man up. We did it. We push ourselves. I wish we would've come out the whole game that way, but it didn't turn out that way."
"They (T-C Prep) missed their opportunities," W-P coach Jeff Bartlow said. "They did something we hadn't seen. We had trouble with it on that first drive. Once we got our backs to the end zone, we had big plays and got out of it. Those two stops were key, as they didn't have 14 points."
Offensively, W-P did just enough. Quarterback Zach Bartlow completed 2-of-7 passes in the first half, but they both went for touchdowns. A 34-yard strike to freshman Devin Acevedo got W-P on the board with a 7-0 lead with 3:05 left in the first period.
Following the second-period goal-line stand, W-P drove 63 yards in six plays as Bartlow connected with Dalton Estes down the near sideline for a 30-yard TD and W-P led 13-0 with 3:29 left in the half.
A Bartlow-to-Acevedo pass finished W-P's 52-yard drive to open the second half. Acevedo's TD catch produced a 19-0 W-P lead with 9:44 left in the third.
Bartlow had a pick, Cadman Donovan had a tackle for a loss, Eshom Estes batted down a Whitsett pass attempt, and Stearns and Cadman Donovan combined for a tackle for a loss as W-P held onto the 19-0 lead - with T-C Prep driving, heading to the fourth.
The Jaguars struck on the first play of the fourth quarter as Whitsett found Chris Yackawich for 10 yards and a score to narrow the W-P lead to 19-7.
W-P answered as Brown busted up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown run to cap a 62-yard march and W-P went back to a comfortable 26-7 lead.
T-C Prep, with the benefit of a pass interference penalty, answered with a 45-yard Whitsett-to-Jacob Schmidt strike to make it 26-13 with 6:22 left.
W-P had to punt with 4:23 to play. Whitsett and Pedersen connected on a 70-yard bomb and the Jaguars trailed 26-20 with 4:11 left.
W-P's goal was to run out the clock. It got two first downs but faced a fourth-and-3 at the T-C Prep 30 with 2:30 left. Bartlow rolled right and buried his pass into a diving Justin Zuger, and W-P had four more downs at the Jaguar 24.
T-C Prep held as Bartlow's fourth-down pass from the 16 went off the finger tips of Zuger.
With 10 seconds left, the Jaguars had one last shot from its own 16. Eshom Estes broke through and sacked Whitsett at the 10 as the clock ran out and W-P breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"That was the All-American sack for me," Eshom Estes said. "It was awesome. With 10 seconds left on the clock, our team needed it badly."
"It was a big one (sigh of relief)," coach Bartlow said of the game-ending sack. "Anything can happen on the last play of the game. We only rushed three. Eshom had a huge play. It was a huge relief. It's not a win like a jubilant win. It's a relief win."
Thanks to the sacks, the W-P defense limited T-C Prep to negative 46 yards of rushing offense, but Whitsett was 27-of-45 for 361 yards.
"We missed a lot of defensive plays on the ball," coach Bartlow said. "We jumped too early. It's hard to explain as we kind of broke down. We got a lot of sacks, but they threw the ball on us and we knew they were going to do it."
W-P shot itself in the foot on offense. Seven penalties for 70 yards - including back-to-back penalties that wiped out a Bartlow 40-yard gallop - called back a 57-yard TD scamper by Brown.
Offensively, we had a couple of huge penalties," coach Bartlow said. "The game's over if we just execute. Mistakes are part of the game and that happens."
W-P improves to 3-0 in SE2B play, and 7-0 overall and hosts Asotin, for homecoming Friday.
"It was a huge win and we needed it, but the bottom line is we aren't very good against the pass," coach Bartlow said. "We don't run the ball like we are capable of. It's back to another week of getting better."
"We've got to practice hard this week," Eshom Estes said. "It (poor play) is getting in my head. We need to come out and stay stronger. Homecoming next week, I don't want to lose my senior homecoming."
Waitsburg-Prescott 26, Tri-Cities Prep 20
W-P 7 6 6 7 - 26
T-C Prep 0 0 0 20 - 20
W-P - Acevedo 12 pass from Bartlow (Barajas kick).
W-P - D. Estes 30 pass from Bartlow (kick failed).
W-P - Acevedo 12 pass from Bartlow (run failed).
T-C Prep - Yackawich 10 pass from Whitsett (Richards kick).
W-P - Brown 22 run (Barajas kick).
T-C Prep - Schmidt 45 pass from Whitsett (pass failed).
T-C Prep - Pedersen 70 pass from Whitsett (Richards kick).
W-P T-C Prep
First Downs 10 15
Rushes/Yards 35-170 16-(-46)
Passing Yards 82 361
Passes (att-comp-int) 13-4-1 46-27-2
Punts 3-26.3 3-24.3
Fumbles 2-1 0-0
Penalties 7-70 8-76
RUSHING - W-P: Bartlow 20-82, Brown 12-82, Acevedo 1-6, Eastman 2-0; T-C Prep: Yackawich 4-1, Whitsett 7-1, Team 5-(-48).
PASSING - W-P: Bartlow 4-13-1, 82 yards, 3 Touchdowns; TCP: D. Pederson 0-1-1, 0 yards, Whitsett 27-45-1, 361 yards, 3 touchdowns.
RECEIVING - W-P: Acevedo 20-46-2, D. Estes 1-30-1, Zuger 1-6; T-C Prep: J. Pedersen 11-189-1, Rivas 4-33, Schmidt 6-100-1, Yackawich 6-39-1.