By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
WINSLOW TOWNSHIP — When Woodrow Wilson High School star quarterback Devon Kargman rifled a touchdown pass to Michael Estemera in the back corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter, the festivities seemed finished.
The Tigers took a 30-20 lead with 8 minutes, 46 seconds left. A see-saw battle appeared finished save for some home magic from Winslow Township.
Those Eagles rubbed the right lamp.
With 12 points in a 63-second span in the middle of the fourth stanza, Winslow — ranked No. 5 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11 — upended seventh-slotted Wilson, 32-30.
It started with Hamas Duren’s 15-yard touchdown toss to Jacob Mitchell at the 7-minute mark. Mitchell, who grabbed two scores on the night, leaped and snagged the pass. Emotionally, he celebrated — but most of the crowd didn’t match that enthusiasm.
“Every time my quarterback rolls out, I know I have to be there for him,” Mitchell said. “And that time, he connected with me. We do it all the time.”
Mere moments later, everyone on the home side rose to Mitchell’s previously displayed adrenaline.
That occurred when the Eagles (2-1) recovered the squib kick. Duren found Mitchell for 22 yards on first down. Tailback Trey Thorpe came back to the huddle and told his signal caller the deal.
“I told ’Mas, ‘trust me, trust me, it’s going to be open,’” Thorpe recalled.
Trust can be a beautiful thing between teammates. For Winslow, it put them up for good.
Duren found Thorpe a play later and the senior dashed 28 yards to hit pay dirt and round out the totals.
“Trey and I had been whispering to each other, he said, “man, if it breaks down, throw me the ball to the left,” Duren said in his version of that exchange. “I dropped back and he was wide open. I threw him the ball and he ran and walked in.”
A turnover on downs followed for Wilson (1-1). Thorpe’s late 32-yard run down to the Wilson 2-yard line removed any doubt and called for the victory formation. The star runner scored twice on the night.
This matchup seemed destined to be a tight one prior to kickoff and even at halftime with a 6-6 score. Kargman, Estemera and Nazs’ir “NuNu” Ogelsby paced the visitors for much of the final 24 minutes. Every score the Eagles added, the Tigers would add another.
Wilson led 14-6.
Winslow cut it to 14-12.
Wilson made it 22-12.
Winslow trimmed it back down to 22-20.
That’s why Estemera’s catch seemed to make 10 points too much of a hill for coach Kenny Scott’s roster to climb.
“It was sloppy play all over the field,” Scott said. “Penalties, drive-stopping penalties, but we made the plays when it counted.
“Take nothing from Woodrow Wilson. They are the standard in Group 3. They made it hard on us. They exposed us in the first half, exposed us on the back end. There were a couple explosive plays we gave up. But listen, I’m more than happy with the win. Whether it’s ugly, it doesn’t matter. We’re happy to come off on the right side of this thing. We know there’s more work to do.”
On the flip side, Tigers’ coach Brandon Bather lamented the way things broke down late.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes,” the first-year head coach said. “… You can’t get too low. You can’t let one play beat you twice.”
He referred to the onside kick, which clearly swung the pendulum to dark green and far from orange.
“We practice special teams for an hour every single day,” Mitchell said. “Coach pushes us harder in special teams than anything else because it’s a key factor in the game.
“We ended up getting one and we went down and knew we had to go score.”
That’s what they did. Somehow, the Eagles escaped into the cool Saturday night draped with the adjective Mitchell used — “thankful.”
“With the amount of mistakes we made tonight, we can’t play teams in the top 10 and expect to be successful,” Scott said. “Wilson played well enough to win this game and we just happened to make a couple extra plays when it counted.”
Especially when it counted. Over a span of 63 seconds to be exact. Just like that.
Mark Trible covers high school football for Glory Days Magazine. Check out his weekly Facebook Live show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show can be seen at facebook.com/acglorydays