WOOD RIVER JCT.— Chariho High’s final home game of the season was unequivocally the sweetest.
The Chargers rallied from 13 points down to begin the fourth quarter and claim the lead for good on an Evan Judkins 26-yard touchdown pass to Rick Evola with 4:20 remaining.
However, it wasn’t until Paul Marshall broke through the Pilgrim High offensive line on its two-point conversion attempt with 17 seconds left, forcing an errant throw from quarterback James Baldwin that fell incomplete to give Chariho a 26-25 win in a Division II crossover game on Thursday night.
“Earlier in the season, we wouldn’t have come back from this,” Chargers head coach Rick Martin said after the game, which he agreed was one of the most exciting of his two-year tenure at Chariho. “I’m happy for the kids. They were letting us know what was working and what wasn’t working.”
What was working was Brine Wotherspoon, who scored the first three touchdowns for the Chargers and had an interception in the game. Wotherspoon, a senior, carried the ball only 10 times but accumulated a season-high 114 yards.
His interception came in the first quarter, setting up Chariho at its own 34-yard line. On the very first play of the series, Wotherspoon exploded for a 66-yard touchdown run to give his team an early 6-0 lead.
The next three trips to the end zone belonged the Patriots, who built up a 19-6 lead on a pair of rushing touchdowns for Simon Davis and a third from Jamon van Heyningen on a 33-yard pass from Baldwin.
With almost no margin for error remaining, the Charho defense and special teams kicked it up a gear. An Alexi Fauzey interception set the stage for a five-play, 60-yard scoring drive that Wotherspoon capped off with a 1-yard run with 11:16 to go in the fourth.
Pilgrim fumbled the ensuing kick return to set give the Chargers possession right back, and Wotherspoon made the Patriots pay again with an 11-yard run to bring Chariho within a point, 19-18 (the PAT was blocked).
Aaron Bliven was the next man up for the Chargers, picking off Baldwin on third and 4 inside Chariho territory to give the Chargers possession back.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved Chariho back 15 yards to begin the drive, but it was a minor setback to complete its comeback. Judkins was 3 for 4 for 60 yards on what would stand as the game-winning drive, including the go-ahead score to Evola. Tommy Wrzesien added the two-point conversion with a second burst through the line to make it 26-19 Chargers.
Pilgrim received the ball at its own 30. The drive seemed dead, but Baldwin impossibly found Jaron Petrozzi in the corner of the end zone with 17 seconds left on the clock. Rather than attempt an extra point, the Patriots went for the win by lining up for a two-point conversion that would have all but assured a victorious trip back to Warwick.
Instead, Marshall – who also had a fumble recovery and one catch for 18 yards – played hero once more for the Chargers to get the team to 3-6 (3-5 Division II).
“We ended up getting down pretty big, but we just kept going, kept grinding,” Wotherspoon said. “We just all looked at each other, especially the seniors. This is our last game of the season on this field and we want to make it memorable.”
“He’s one of the bigger parts of our team,” Martin said of Wotherspoon. “Everybody played a part; Ricky [Evola] got his first touchdown, which is great. We’ve just got to take this momentum and take it into the Thanksgiving game.”
Chariho closes its season against Narragansett High on Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m. in Narragansett.