Mystical was magical Friday night when Washington High needed a special play the most.
With a name ideal for receiver, junior Mystical McGee hauled in a 38-yard scoring pass and Julian Robinson sealed the win with a 55-yard run, all within the final five minutes as the Wildcats beat Milton 25-13 at Sherman Robinson Stadium.
A large crowd, which including Milton filling the visitors side of bleachers, watched a game where both teams missed chances with turnovers and special team struggles.
“I am glad we had some success passing, because last week (in 8-7 preseason win at Crestview) we didn’t do was well as we would have liked,” said Washington coach Charlie Ward, who is beginning his third season since moving to Pensacola. “I was proud of the guys. The offensive line picked up and played well. We left a lot of points on the field and left a lot of plays, but overall we fought back and then made some big plays there at the end.”
Milton tied the game (13-13) with 6:56 remaining when Panthers’ safety Martavious Odom dislodged the ball from quarterback Andre Hunt and raced 75 yards for a touchdown. It was the Panthers first score since taking the game-opening possession for a touchdown.
But after the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats went 67 yards on six plays to regain the lead with 4:46 remaining. McGee, who is among a sizable group of sophomores and juniors in the starting lineup, caught a 17-yard pass to give Washington a first down at the Milton 32.
But on the next play, Robinson was stuffed for a 7-yard loss. Ward called a rollout pass and Hunt connected with McGee in stride for the touchdown. The series was huge for Hunt, who needed Ward’s guidance after his mistake on the sack-and-strip-ball led to Milton gaining the emotional edge.
“We had that happen last year, but just not for a touchdown the other way,” Ward said. “He came back and kept his poise. I think it’s because I didn’t yell at him like normal. I kept my poise with him. He knew it. He said he was going to come back and he did. I’m proud of him.
“That is one of things I have seen in him.. how he has matured.”
The Wildcats defense then got an interception with 3:36 remaining at the Wildcats’ 18. The Wildcats turned to a power run game and Robinson broke several tackles en route to his game-sealing TD.
The interception was one of three for Washington, Cornerback Eric Goldsmith made two season-highlight receptions with leaping one hand grabs deep in his own territory.
“He was lights out,” Ward said.
Washington played the game with just 32 players dressed out, which meant starters were playing both sides. Ward, who won the 1993 Heisman Trophy as Florida State’s electrifying quarterback, has adapted his coaching style to lean on defense and a running game behind star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood on the left side, fellow senior Desmond Bettis on the other side.
Bettis is also a two-way player and staying on the field most of the game.
“He plays both ways and does a great job for us,” Ward said. “We feel good about (run) plays in either side. We were able to run the ball when we needed it and that’s where you need an offensive line like that.”
The Wildcats finished with 217 yards rushing, prompting Ward to say, “That’s awesome,” when informed by one of his assistant coaches.
A bulk of that yardage was gained by senior Aaron Malory, who scored the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns.
“He is destined to have a breakout (season).” Ward said. “He is a back we really didn’t use last year. He understood what he needed to do to get in shape and he is a big play run. He make some big plays and he has some big holes.”
Milton took the opening kickoff, then started seven yards further back after a sack on the first play. From there, Milton went 75 yards on the next 11 plays. Trevor Knight bulled his way in from the 2 midway through the quarter.
Washington got a short field after its defense pushed Milton back to a punt from its own end zone. Malory finished a 44-yard drive with a 1-yard run with 4:17 left.
In the final minute, both teams exchanged turnovers. After Washington recovered a fumble with 53 seconds left on the Milton 14, Hunt’s pass near the end zone was picked off by Camron Brye with 17 seconds left before halftime.
The score stayed that way until the eventful final five minutes.
“We had some very good plays made offensively and defensively,” Ward said. “We had a good running game, a couple great interceptions and great effort plays on jump balls. I was very proud of guys the way they competed.”