By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON — Washington's Casey Danley was unstoppable against the Rams on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers running back racked up 318 yards rushing yards and five touchdowns. The explosive offense led to a 53-12 Washington victory and ended Mt. Vernon's football season in the second round of the 5A playoffs.
“I told the kids all week he's the best offensive football player that we've seen all year,” Mt. Vernon coach Jared Shaner said. “We saw it on film. You feel like you've got him bottled up and then all of a sudden … I told them that was the key to the game for us, and we just couldn't get it done on some of those big runs.”
Mt. Vernon's offense struggled to gain traction early in the game. Washington's defense bottled up the Rams rushing attack throughout the game. Mt. Vernon finished with 49 carries for 256 yards with the majority coming in the second half. Mt. Vernon's opening two possessions ended with punts.
“They still got off the edge on us today,” Washington coach Darrell Crouch said. “They do a good job of getting the ball on the perimeter. We tried to take that away. (We) struggled with it at times, and some times our guys came up and made big plays on that as well. That was our biggest thing.”
The Rams fumbled on the next two possessions after the punts, allowing the Panthers to surge to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“(Washington's defense) did a pretty good job,” Shaner said. “They've got some big, strong, physical kids. (They) came up and really attacked our blocks, and I felt like we kind of accepted them some times as opposed to being the aggressor.”
Quarterback Dylan Reeves helped the Rams sliced into the Panthers advantage late in the second quarter. He connected with Doug Gardner for a 21-yard scoring strike. The passing play made the score 21-6.
Washington responded with an efficient two-minute offense that ended with a Danley score with 38 seconds left in the half.
“Just that momentum again,” Shaner said. “We never could just quite get it completely in our favor.”
The Panthers extended their lead at the outset of the third quarter. Washington recovered the opening kickoff and punched in another score to lead 34-6.
MT. Vernon's only other score came midway through the third. Demontez Miller-Gray dashed in from 10 yards away. He finished the game with 102 yards rushing. Graham Henken added 60 yards on the ground.
The Rams finished with three turnovers on a pair of fumbles and an interception from Reeves.
Danley biggest runs came on a pair of second-half touchdowns of 62 and 69 yards.
“Some places we have an advantage,” Crouch said. “Casey Danley, he's a pretty special kid, our tailback.”
The Rams finished its season 7-4. Washington improved to 11-0 and faces Normal in the third round of the 5A bracket.
“It doesn't feel very good right now, but we'll look back and have way more positive memories than negative,” Shaner said. “That's for sure.”