The Raiders (6-5), who trailed 18-14 at the time, moved backward on a botched shotgun snap and personal foul penalty.
Shea quarterback Tyshon Ashe delivered a strike to freshman Yanique Duarte 20 yards down the middle of the field. Duarte made a move to the far side of the field and outran the pursuit on his way to a 60-yard touchdown.
“What do you say?” Westerly coach Chris Wriedt said. “We didn’t react or respond the way we could have and they hit a big play.”
The Raiders missed the extra point and the score remained 20-18 with 7 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs (3-8) had a good chance to pull ahead on their next drive after they drove to the Shea 10-yard line.
A critical false start penalty changed a third-and-6 to a third-and-11 and Westerly quarterback Scott Liguori was sacked for a 1-yard loss on that play.
Westerly brought out the field goal unit, but the 33-yard attempt went wide left and Shea took over with 2:02 left.
“We had a (false start) late and instead of third-and-2 it’s third-and-7. Do we make the field goal if we’re 5 yards closer? Maybe, maybe not, but 5 yards is 5 yards.”
Westerly, after using all three of its timeouts to preserve the clock, had one last chance with 1:42 left from its own 30-yard but another big play by the Raiders ended that threat.
Shea’s Andy Darius intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for the game sealing score. Shea scored on another big play in the second quarter, this time a 78-yard punt return by Duarte.
Duarte looked like he had been tackled three times, but kept his balanced and went all the way for the score.
The score put Shea up 14-6 at the time, but Wriedt said he didn’t blame his players for the big special teams play.
“I had a problem with the punt return for a touchdown. There were two penalties on that, a lot of blocking in the back,” he said.
“Their (Shea’s) coach even said ‘I saw two clips in front of me and nothing was called’ and I had a problem with that. They’re (the officials) human and they miss some, but it does take the wind out of your sails.”
Wriedt said allowing big plays was hardly unique to the Shea game.
“Big plays, that’s how we’ve gotten beat all season. Woonsocket, third play of the game: 60-yard touchdown pass. Johnston last week had a big pass on the first series for a touchdown. It’s been like that all season.”
It was hardly all bad for the Bulldogs Friday night.
The bigger Bulldogs were able to run the ball effectively on a smaller Raiders front and Westerly scored a touchdown on a 65-yard game-opening drive.
Jacee Hamelin’s 39-yard run was the big play and Clayton Minnich capped the seven-play march (all runs) with a 4-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs took the lead in the third quarter after a 13-play 46-yard drive, which featured a heavy dose of fullback Tom McGuire, ended with a 3-yard score by the senior captain.
“We found some things out after talking with upstairs at halftime that they were in a particular set on defense that we felt we could exploit,” Wriedt said. “That’s what we did with Tommy. It was more of an inside than off-tackle attack, we were basically running up the center.
“We’ve been able to move the ball effectively all year against most teams. Our offense doesn’t have a play for third-and-15. We’re a running offense. We need to stay in third-and-2s and third-and-3s.”
The Bulldogs’ other touchdown came off an impressive drive in the final 4 minutes of the first half.
The Bulldogs marched 42 yards in less than 3 minutes and converted on a fourt-and-10 on a 25-yard screen pass from Liguori to Minnich.
Minnich broke one tackle to reach the sticks then bounced off another would-be tackler to score. Next up for the Bulldogs is their Thanksgiving Day game at Stonington.
“We played well against a team with great speed tonight which is what Stonington has. We have our work cut out for us but we’ll be ready.”