Peoria High football comes up just short of Class 5A state championship

CHAMPAIGN — Malachi Washington has been a nightmare for opponents all season.

Just ask Nazareth coach Tim Racki.

“He was in film. He was in my dreams," Racki said of the Peoria High running back. “You talk about an old-school running back — power, speed, tenacity, get stronger as the game goes on. Just the will. … He is a complete running back.

“That’s, hands down, the best running back we have seen all year. Maybe for me in a few years. He’s very special.”

Washington continued his dominant senior season Saturday during Peoria High's 45-44 loss to LaGrange Park Nazareth in the Class 5A state championship football game. The senior all-stater rushed for 275 yards and a title game record-tying six touchdowns on 48 carries at Memorial Stadium.

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Washington’s final TD of the game came at the 5:15 mark of the fourth quarter to pull the Lions within one. A two-point conversion that came up just a yard short set the final score.

That ended a spectacular season for the senior — but not without him leaving a permanent mark in Peoria High football history.

“Individually, the season means a lot from the bottom of my heart,” Washington said. “I love football so much.”

Peoria High assistant coach Jeff Roper, middle, consoles seniors Malachi Washington (6) and Kenny Rutherford after the Lions' 45-44 loss to Nazareth Academy in the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.
Peoria High assistant coach Jeff Roper, middle, consoles seniors Malachi Washington (6) and Kenny Rutherford after the Lions' 45-44 loss to Nazareth Academy in the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

One final chance

Peoria High (12-2), which was making its first state title game appearance since the 2016 5A crown, had an opportunity following Washington’s TD.

Senior linebacker Gary Rutherford, who had a game-high 11 tackles, batted away a potential Nazareth score on fourth-and-1 from the Peoria High 4-yard line. From there, the Lions moved the ball up to their own 24 before an interception by Zach Hayes sealed Nazareth’s fourth title since 2014.

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Peoria High had outgained Nazareth, 444-402, with 308 rushing yards. Both teams had 23 first downs, while each committed a turnover. The Lions punted three times after only punting nine times the entire season.

“Any time you get here at all is fantastic,” Peoria High coach Tim Thornton said. “Kids worked their butts off all season. They just kept overcoming and overcoming and overcoming.

“They played their tails off consistently and we just came up one short.”

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Peoria High quarterback Tino Gist throws under pressure from Nazareth Academy in the second half of the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.
Peoria High quarterback Tino Gist throws under pressure from Nazareth Academy in the second half of the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

Nazareth grabs early lead

Nazareth took a 22-8 lead when Hayes grabbed a 28-yard TD pass with 45 seconds left in the half. TQ Webb (124 yards on five catches) then caught a 69-yard pass from Tino Gist (5-for-14, 123 yards) down the left sideline, setting up first and 10 from the Nazareth 4.

One play later, Washington was in the endzone, and Peoria High was headed into halftime down only 22-14. He ran behind the offensive line of left tackle Dominic Bautista, left guard JaQuarius Green, center Travanti Brown, right guard Matheno Fuller and right tackle AJ Roscoe.

“We knew what we had to fix,” said the 5-foot-10, 206-pounder, who had 91 yards on 21 carries at the break. “… Took the coaching. Made adjustments and we came out and gave it all we got.”

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A third TD — this one from 16 yards out on fourth and 5 — from Washington along with Ricky Hearn snagging the 2-point conversion tied the game at 22-22 with 8:06 remaining in the third.

His second third-quarter score gave Peoria High its first lead since 8-0 in the opening quarter.

“The gaps started opening up,” Washington said, “and we all started to take advantage of it.”

The Nazareth Academy defense swarms Peoria High running back Malachi Washington during the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.
The Nazareth Academy defense swarms Peoria High running back Malachi Washington during the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.
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Back and forth at the end

In the game’s final 20:04, the lead changed five times capped by Washington’s final prep TD. He finishes his Peoria High career with 3,348 yards on 407 carries and 53 TDs.

Not bad for a first-year starter with zero college interest.

“I think he’s made a case as a college football player,” Thornton said, “since that first week against Metamora. He’s come out and he’ll take holes that are small, and he’ll turn them into big plays.

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“He punishes defensive backs. He’s really, really hard to tackle. … I think there’s no doubt he plays in college and I really think he should play at a high level.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.

Peoria High's Landon Newby-Holesome, on the turf, and his teammates lament their one-point loss to Nazareth Academy in the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign. The Lions fell to the Roadrunners 45-44.
Peoria High's Landon Newby-Holesome, on the turf, and his teammates lament their one-point loss to Nazareth Academy in the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign. The Lions fell to the Roadrunners 45-44.

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1:07 p.m. - Nazareth 45, Peoria High 44 Final

The Lions finish second in Class 5A.

12:49 p.m. - Nazareth 45, Peoria High 44 - 5:15, 4Q

Malachi Washington scores his 6th TD on a 1-yard run. Washington stopped short on the 2-point.

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12:43 p.m. - Nazareth 45, Peoria High 38 - 6:19, 4Q

Flanagan with a 1-yard TD run. 2-point good.

12:32 p.m. - Peoria High 38, Nazareth 37 - 4Q, 7:58

Malachi Washington scores a 1-yard TD. His 48-yard run set up the score.

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12:28 p.m. - Nazareth 37, Peoria High 30 - 9:46, 3Q

Peoria High takes over following a punt.

12:22 p.m. - Nazareth 37, Peoria High 30 - End of 3Q

Nazareth converts on a 19-yard catch from Zach Hayes.

12:11 p.m. - Nazareth 37, Peoria High 30 - 4:00, 3Q

Logan Malachuk with a 10-yard QB sneak for a TD. 2-point is good.

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12:04 p.m. - Peoria High 30, Nazareth 29 - 5:01, 3Q

Malachi Washington gets in the end zone from 9-yards out. He puts in the 2-point.

Ricky Hearn's long kickoff return set up the score.

11:59 a.m. - Nazareth 29, Peoria High 22 - 6:30, 3Q

Logan Malachuk gets in on a 7-yard QB sneak. Extra point good.

11:46 a.m. - Peoria High 22, Nazareth 22 - 3Q, 8:04

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Malachi Washington with a 16-yard TD run. Ricky Hearn catches the 2-point conversion. An Eli McFadden interception started that drive.

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Peoria High's Malachi Washington celebrates a touchdown against Nazareth Academy in the first half of their Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.
Peoria High's Malachi Washington celebrates a touchdown against Nazareth Academy in the first half of their Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

11:16 a.m. - Nazareth 22, Peoria High 14 - Halftime

Malachi Washington scores on a 4-yard TD with 10 seconds left. That was set up with a 68-yard catch by TQ Webb.

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11:10 a.m. - Nazareth 22, Peoria High 8 - 2Q, :45

Zach Hayes catches as 28-yard TD pass. Extra point good. Peoria High punted for the third time this half.

10:48 - Nazareth 15, Peoria High 8, 2Q - 9:05

Justin Taylor with a 2-yard TD run. Extra point good. Peoria High turned it over on downs at its own 32 to start the drive for Naz.

10:37 a.m. - Peoria High, Nazareth tied at 8-8 after 1Q

The Lions will have the ball when play resumes.

10:32 a.m. - Peoria High 8, Nazareth 8, 1Q - 1:24

Nazareth gets on the board when Logan Malachuk finds Edward McClain Jr. for a 1-yard TD. Roadrunners convert the 2-point.

10:24 a.m. - Peoria High 8, Nazareth 0, 1Q - 3:37

Malachi Washington scores a 5-yard TD on 4th down. He had runs of 20, 11 and 7 in the drive. Gist hits Webb on the 2-point.

10:16 a.m. - Teams trade punts

Peoria High and Nazareth each punted on their opening drives.

10:03 a.m. — Kickoff coming

Nazareth won the toss and deferred to the second half. Peoria High will received the kickoff.

9:11 a.m. — Peoria High warming up

Peoria High is on the field warming up for its second state title game appearance since 2016. There's about 50 minutes until kickoff.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: IHSA football Class 5A title: Peoria High vs. Nazareth updates, scores