Cape Girardeau Central couldn't pull off another heart-stopping victory while Washington was able to.
As a result, the Blue Jays have advanced to the Class 4A semifinals.
Less than a week after both squads had posted one-point, double-overtime triumphs in the opening round of the playoffs last Wednesday, Washington prevailed 18-17 Monday night in a 4A quarterfinal at Houck Stadium.
The Blue Jays, ranked second in the state, will carry a 12-0 record into Saturday's semifinal date at Hannibal. The unranked Tigers finish at 7-5.
"At this point, it should come down to the end," said Washington coach Jeff Duncan after seeing Central's Chris Jones come up short and wide on a 57-yard field-goal attempt on the game's final play. "It was a great game between two great teams."
Said Central coach Lawrence Brookins, "We had our opportunities. We can't complain. We just came up a little bit short."
Central had plenty of opportunities primarily because of a ball-hawking defense that came up with five turnovers, one of them resulting in a touchdown and two others leading directly to a touchdown and a field goal.
"They did something they don't normally do, which is turnovers," Brookins said. "They usually don't turn it over more than once or twice a game."
Those miscues helped the Tigers hang in the game the entire way even though Washington dominated the statistics, piling up 394 yards of offense to 198 for Central. The Blue Jays had 22 first downs while the Tigers managed just nine.
Washington quarterback Adam Brune, a lanky 6-foot-4 senior, did the most damage to the Tigers. Brune rushed for 134 yards on 22 carries and he completed 11 of 19 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Brune helped pick up the slack for explosive tailback Jamie Dowler, who came into the game with more than 1,500 yards rushing but was limited to just 19 yards on 12 attempts.
"He (Brune) is a great player," Duncan said. "Our tailback has carried the load for us all year and about this time everybody keys on him."
The Blue Jays played from behind most of the night after Central's Monroe Hicks pulled a Brune fumble out of the air and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown just 1:07 into the contest. Jones' PAT made it 7-0.
Washington pulled to within 7-6 with 5:56 left in the first quarter as Brune hit Andrew Williams with a 7-yard touchdown pass, but the PAT failed.
Late in the opening period, after another Washington fumble, the Tigers needed just three plays to cover 46 yards. Hicks scored from 32 yards out and Jones converted for a 14-6 lead with 2:53 left in the quarter.
Yet another Washington fumble set up the Tigers at the Blue Jays' 20 and, even though Central couldn't move, Jones booted a 42-yard field goal for a 17-6 lead just 12 seconds into the second quarter.
Washington pulled to within 17-12 with 3:26 left before halftime on Dower's 1-yard run. After a conversion play failed, that's the way things stood at the intermission.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Blue Jays finally went ahead early in the final period on a 44-yard pass from Brune to a wide-open Brett Anderson, who had six receptions for 132 yards. But again a conversion pass failed, leaving the Tigers within 18-17 with still 10:13 remaining.
The Blue Jays appeared to be marching toward a clinching score in the late going, but Seth Hudson intercepted a pass at the Central 26 with a little more than four minutes left.
On fourth-and-one from the Washington 49, Central quarterback Mitch Craft was stopped just short on a sneak with 2:17 left. But the Tigers forced a punt, giving themselves a final opportunity.
Taking over at their own 24 with just 40 seconds remaining, the Tigers moved to the Washington 40 with 13 seconds left. But they were still at the 40 with 3.2 seconds to go when the strong-legged Jones came up short on his long field-goal try.
"With a kicker like that, I'd have done the same thing," said Duncan. "My hat's off to Cape. Coach Brookins has done a great job. And my hat's off to my kids. We made the plays when we had to."
Despite the disappointment of the loss, Brookins felt nothing but pride for his squad.
"They've done so much," he said. "To win district and sectionals back to back is quite an accomplishment."
Craft, after sparkling in the first-round playoff win over North County, completed just five of 18 passes for 48 yards. Hicks led the Tigers on the ground with 72 yards on six carries.