NORTH LIBERTY — Washington football coach James Harris was asked just how good his quarterback is and what Luke Turner means to his team.
“He’s pretty handy, huh?” Harris said with a sly smile. “He makes us all look pretty smart. He’s the perfect quarterback for our offense. We keep guys active downfield, and if the defense shuts one thing down, we’ll go over the top. He’s a special kid. We’re happy he’s playing for the orange and black, no doubt about that.”
That special kid turned in a pretty special performance in the Demons’ 38-31 win Friday night over Iowa City Liberty. The dual threat accounted for 258 yards rushing and passing, throwing two touchdown passes, a two-point conversion and running for a TD and two two-pointers as Class 3A 10th-ranked Washington moved to 3-0.
His third-and-4 power run around right end for 14 yards gave the Demons a first down with about two minutes left and essentially salted this back-and-forth game away. Washington’s defense had just stepped up and made the biggest play of the game by stopping Liberty’s Kaleb Williams for just a 1-yard gain on a fourth-and-4 option pitch.
“We were definitely not expecting a shootout,” Turner said. “Their style of offense, they like to slow it down and grind away with long possessions ... I can say we were expecting a physical game, which we got.”
It actually was Wyatt Stout’s 11-yard TD run with 5:43 left that provided the winning points. He had three touchdowns: two rushing and one receiving.
Turner’s RPO game was the difference, though. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 136 yards and ran 19 times for 122.
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And keep in mind, he lost 30 yards by taking shotgun snaps on the final three plays and kneeling it out.
“Obviously he’s a phenomenal player,” said Liberty Coach Jeff Gordon. “But I think what gets lost is how good everyone else is around him. That’s a really good football team. They play hard, they play to the whistle, they stress you. Their coaches do a good job. They made the plays tonight, and we didn’t.”
Washington led at halftime, 16-8, but Liberty (2-1) recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff and got a Max Tafolla 3-yard TD run and two-point pass from Drake Woody to Ben Houselog. Tafolla had 82 yards rushing to lead the Lightning’s power ground game.
Washington took a 23-16 lead, only to have Liberty tie it back up. Washington went back ahead early in the fourth quarter, 30-23, with Liberty immediately responding with a 32-yard TD pass from Drake Woody to Williams.
A 2-point Tafolla run gave the Lightning their only lead of the game, 31-30, with 7:30 left. Woody completed 7 of 16 passes for 152 yards, two touchdowns and a 2-pointer.
“I would have liked to have seen us be sounder defensively, but it is what it is. We came out on top,” Harris said. “And we came up with the stop when we needed to.”
“I’m excited about the future with our guys,” said Gordon, about a program that already is highly competitive in his its second year of existence. “Excited to get back to work tomorrow and get ready for next week because I’m awfully proud of their effort and the way they played.”
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