With two minutes left in the third quarter, Washington running back Tommy Mayfield-Commer lowered his shoulder and trucked a Balboa defender as he crossed the goal line, serving as the exclamation point in the Eagles’ 22-0 victory over the Buccaneers.
The win keeps Washington (7-1, 4-0 Academic Athletic Association) in a tie for first place with Lincoln ahead of next week’s Bell Game showdown, and it’s one that was in doubt just a few minutes before Mayfield-Commer’s emphatic run.
Leading just 9-0 at halftime, the Eagles watched Balboa (3-5, 2-2) march downfield on five Dontae Allen-Wilson runs, and a fight after a play resulted in a personal foul and ejection against Washington, putting the Bucs in the red zone.
“The guys stayed with it and never lost their heads,” head coach Mike Ramos said of his team’s response. “That’s everything that I’ve asked of them.”
Christopher Warren recovered a dropped handoff on the very next play, and the Eagles needed just six plays to turn the fumble into points. Dhiraj Gurung dragged tacklers for a gain of 19, James Mertz hit Felix Mamrikov for a 34-yard completion, the Bucs were tagged with a sideline violation and Ayan Razzak scored on an 8-yard sweep.
Sam Dunn sacked Balboa QB Edwin Maiava on the ensuing drive, and Maiava’s attempt to throw the ball away was ruled a fumble, which Frank Alanis pounced on at the 8. Mayfield-Commer mowed his defender down on the very next play to extend the lead to three scores.
“They were trying to go bully ball on us,” Mayfield-Commer said. “We’ve got a lot of skilled players that work hard.”
In a game largely played on Balboa’s terms, the Eagles won by capitalizing on Buccaneer mistakes and beating the visitors at their own game. Balboa dominated time of possession, 32:10-15:50, and intercepted Mertz three times in the first half, but Washington managed 6.3 yards per carry.
“Tommy played a great game,” Balboa head coach Fred Velasquez said.
Mayfield-Commer ran seven times for 59 yards, including a 40-yard gain to set up Washington’s first touchdown, and Gurung gained 90 yards on 10 attempts.
The Eagles struck first on a safety. With Maiava sidelined for a play after his helmet came off on a Dunn sack, the snap went over his backup’s head and through the end zone.
“It’s the signature of our season,” Velasquez said. “It’s us shooting ourselves in the foot and giving teams opportunities that they don’t need.”
Mamrikov caught an 11-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to put the home side up 9-0.
Interceptions by Noah DeGroat and Omar Blanco kept Washington from extending the lead, but the Buccaneers failed to turn them into any points. An eight-minute drive in the second quarter resulted in a missed field goal after a Quadir Jules sack and Mayfield-Commer tackle for a 6-yard loss when the junior sniffed out a screen play.
“He’s one of the top linebackers in the league,” Velasquez remarked.
The one negative for the hosts on an otherwise spectacular afternoon came in the fourth quarter when Mertz reinjured his knee on a Michael Zapata sack.
The Buccaneers had their share of casualties, too. Blanco, who had two catches for 44 yards to go with his interception, injured his collarbone late in the first half.
“Omar goes down, and then we start making mistakes,” Velasquez said.
Santiago Alvarez had four catches for 35 yards, and Nick Wong hauled in three passes for 20. Maiava completed 13 of his 21 passes for 122 yards. Christian Menjivar had Balboa’s third interception, which came with 25 seconds left in the first half, and Allen-Wilson ran 13 times for 59 yards, but bad snaps and fumbles killed any offensive momentum.
“Story of our season,” Velasquez said.
It’s not like the Washington defense, which allowed 34 points to Lowell seven days earlier, needed any help. Dunn, nephew of famous linebacker Bill Romanowski, finished the day with three tackles for loss and two sacks, the latter of which caused the fumble to set up Mayfield-Commer’s game-defining run.
“I think we got used to their offense,” Dunn said. “If I’m being honest, I feel like Lowell’s line was stronger than Balboa’s.”
Another physical opponent looms next week when Lincoln (4-3, 3-0) visits.