Too many turnovers proved too costly for Washington on Friday night.
Wilmington turned four turnovers into touchdowns and emerged with a 49-42 victory over the Little Prexies in a PIAA Class 2A semifinal at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
The Greyhounds took advantage of two fumbles and two interceptions, then picked off a third pass with 1 minute, 7 seconds to go and were able to run out the clock.
Wilmington (14-0) will play Southern Columbia for the state title at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.
It will be the third trip to the state finals under veteran coach Terry Verrelli.
“It’s a great feeling, that’s for sure,” said Verrelli, who collected coaching win No. 314. “I know these kids are totally excited. The turnovers gave us some great field position.”
Washington, coming off its seventh WPIAL title last weekend, finished 13-1.
“Turnovers really killed us tonight,” Little Prexies coach Mike Bosnic said. “It was a tough game. It’s something we always talk about, taking care of the ball.”
The turnovers enabled Wilmington to set up short scoring drives.
The first fumble recovery by Jacob Yohman at the Little Prexies’ 22 set up a three-play drive, with Colton Marett scoring on a 20-yard carry.
The next fumble on a punt return gave Wilmington possession early in the second quarter, again at the Washington 22. Greyhounds quarterback Robert Pontius later ran it in from the 5.
Pontius then picked off a Zack Swartz pass on the Little Prexies’ 40, and Bryson Verrelli, the coach’s grandson, scored from 7 yards out five plays later.
On the final play of the third quarter, Colton Richards’ pass interception allowed Wilmington to set up at the Washington 33.
Despite the mistakes, Washington was in the game until the final minute.
Nick Welsh finished his stellar season with 225 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Welsh scored on runs of 55, 30, 5 and 1 yard. He finished the campaign with 2,308 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“He broke off some long runs and big plays, what he’s been doing all year long,” Bosnic said.
Swartz threw for 143 yards to complete his sophomore season. Dan Walker caught seven passes for 98 yards, including a 39-yard scoring toss from Swartz on a fourth-and-10 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
That play tied the game at 35, but Jack Patton gave the Greyhounds the lead for good 47 seconds later by breaking loose for a 52-yard run.
Even though Pontius had two 1,000-yard rushers in the backfield and a third, Cameron Marett, heading for the milestone before he got hurt, the junior quarterback took matters into his own hands. He threw for two touchdown passes, ran for two more and had the big interception late in the first half.
“Well, it helps having those rushers,” Pontius said. “They get keyed on, and I get the easier ones around end.”
Pontius ended up with 72 rushing yards and 71 passing yards.
Patton finished with 89 rushing yards, giving him 1,201 for the season.
“It was a great senior group, and we’re glad about what they accomplished this year,” Bosnic said. “Unfortunately, tonight it didn’t work out.”
The Greyhounds were state title winners in 2008 against Philadelphia West Catholic, while Washington was seeking its first PIAA crown since 2001, when it defeated Pen Argl.