By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Senior Football Writer
SEWELL — It happened here at Washington Township High around 9:45 p.m., in front of the giant water tower and a packed crowd on Homecoming.
Sophomore quarterback Cole Aquino just wanted to throw it as far as he could from his 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame. Receiver Logan Perez said he’d tip the offer once it came. Coach Mike Schatzman explained his team needed to converge to the ball. Then, he could barely stand to watch the snap that took place with 5.3 seconds left.
Dashawn Long? Well, he never quit. Long shot or not, he kept his eye on that brown pigskin and found it.
The Miracle at Tom Brown Field.
Long snatched the deflection that came out of a jump that included three Winslow defenders, Perez and Jordan Potts. He dove and grabbed it in the end zone as time expired for a 39-yard score.
The Minutemen and their coaches swarmed the field as the Eagles stood in disbelief.
Washington Township 27, Winslow 25.
“It doesn’t (feel real),” Long said.
Schatzman had an answer for how his talented junior receiver found the big moment.
“Dashawn is a kid who just, he’s always around the ball,” he said. “He’s always in the right spot.
“Sometimes you may even want him in another spot, but he makes a play and you say, that’s just Dashawn being Dashawn.”
The Minutemen (5-2), ranked No. 10 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11, marched 99 yards in 1 minute, 53 seconds to stun No. 5 Winslow (5-2).
“I’m still in shock, it just all happened so fast. It’s like a blur,” Aquino said. “What was on my mind, and still is — ‘What just happened?’”
Aquino navigated his club down the field, but the dream seemed dead for the hosts when he threw incomplete and 4th-and-10 with 18 seconds left. However, a roughing the passer call extended the drive.
Seemingly glued to the turf face down, Aquino gathered his strength. He threw incomplete on the next snap. Then, he took a sack.
A timeout allowed for one final gather of the breath. His heave would come as a prayer for Washington Township in the see-saw battle. The Minutemen jumped out to a 14-0 lead in this one until late in the first half.
That’s when the Eagles inserted freshman quarterback Jalen Parker into the game. He threw a 41-yard score on 4th down late in the first half. Parker threw for two more touchdowns to make it 18-14 in the third frame.
Aquino ran in a 12-yard scramble early in the fourth to push the advantage back to Township. Parker led Winslow back down the field on a drive capped by Kam Brown’s 4-yard run.
With 3:33 left, the Minutemen trailed 21-18. They turned it over on downs on the next possession. The Eagles opted to throw for first down rather than milk the clock and were forced to punt it back.
When Nakeem Powell’s masterful punt pinned Township at the 1, the result seemed inevitable. Winslow had found its groove with Parker and would extend its win streak to six and continue pursuit of the top playoff seed in Group 4 South.
But that’s why they play to triple zeros.
“That’s the best feeling in the world.” Long said. “I’ve never felt this in my life.”
Schatzman’s experienced a number of tight, close-call losses since he took over his alma mater’s program. This one offered some payback.
While many were still in shock as they left the field, Schatzman already knew what the moment meant.
“I’ve been a part of a national championship baseball team, a state champion baseball team, some very good football programs,” Schatzman said of some of his favorite moments. “This probably tops all of them.
“When you win, there’s that sense of pride that the work you’ve put in and the work the kids have put in, it’s paid off … It’s an unbelievable moment. I’m happy for my guys, happy for the program and happy for the town. There’s a sense of belief there. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re getting there.”
Sense of belief. Getting where you need to be.
Right place. Right time.
Mark Trible is a special high school football writer for South Jersey Glory Days. You can follow him on Twitter @MTrible. Also, catch his high school football show (The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show) every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/sjglorydays.