The Washington football team (2-1, 1-0) was rolling at the end of the third quarter with a 28-7 lead over Mid-Illini Conference opponent Canton Friday.

The Panthers held on for the 28-21 victory thanks to touchdowns by wide receiver Garrett Frank, running back Mason Diederich and solid play by sophomore quarterback Caleb Fisher, but the second half was a bigger story going forward.

The Little Giants fell in a game Washington head coach Darrell Crouch said should of been a bigger point difference.

Canton (2-1, 0-1) scored two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter to force Crouch to insert his starters despite the large lead.

“We should of gone up 35-7 there at the end and Schellenberg fumbles the ball. Then we just fall apart on defense,” Crouch said. “That game could of been ugly. They had all the momentum going. It was like watching a volleyball game the last six minutes of that game where the momentum switched off of a fumble. The guys just stopped doing their jobs well.”

Even though Washington had a big lead for most of the night, Canton finished with 318 yards compared to Washington’s 302 yards of total offense.

Canton’s Jace Chamberlin had 13-yard and 12-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the Little Giants life, but Canton failed to receive another chance on offense with the clock running against them.

“That will be something to harp on with the defense,” Crouch said. “It was a horrible last two defensive series. I usually don’t say those words about our defense. Our defense is usually our savior.”

Despite the nailbiter at the end, Washngton earned its first Mid-Illini Conference win of the season. 

“It’s a good win headed into conference play, but its not like our guys are going to walk in and feel like a million bucks,” Crouch said. 

Fisher led the Panthers down the field all night, completing 15-for-18 passing with 158 yards. The Panthers led 21-7 at halftime after a 43-yard TD from Fisher to Frank with 36 seconds left in the second quarter. Frank followed up the touchdown with an interception on defense on the next series before the half was completed. 

Diederich scored in the third quarter on a 43-yard run to push the Panthers lead as far as it would reach. 

Washington will try to forget the last six minutes against Canton as they prepare for undefeated rival Metamora this week.

“They know that they have to go to work to play with a school like Metamora (this week),” Crouch said.

 The Panthers will see a hostile environment that they’ve already witnessed during its Week 2 loss to Morris.

“It’s kind of a plus of playing that game,” Crouch said. “You’re going to have a similar atmosphere that you’re going to go into. Those are two tough places.” 

Metamora comes off a double-digit win over conference opponent Morton, 44-21 Friday night.