The Charlestown Pirates faced an old nemesis in the opening round of Class 3-A high school football sectional Friday night at Dutch Reis Field, then spotted No. 3 Heritage Hills a 15-point lead before getting it in gear.
The Pirates had yet to beat the Patriots in four tries and were up against a defense that allowed just 11.9 points per game this season. To pull out the win, coach Jason Hawkins’ team would have to do something extraordinary – and it did, coming back from a nearly game long deficit to post a 39-37 upset win.
To get over the hump – or in this case the Hills – the Pirates rushed for 475 yards on 61 carries. Antonyo Gaddie led the way with 171 on 29 carries while Brendan Lawler rushed for 158 yards on 17 carries and Tate Boley, 115 yards on seven carries.
With just moments remaining in that quarter, the Pirates turned it on.
“I can’t explain how proud I am of this team, I can’t explain how I feel,” Hawkins said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a lot, but we didn’t quit fighting.”
Hawkins was referring to a first-quarter drive that was stalled by three false start penalties, and a safety in the third quarter that negated a goal-line stand by the Pirates defense and a fumble at the end of a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter.
But by the time the fumble stalled the Pirates’ drive to tie the game late, the comeback was already in full gear with the hosts down just 31-23. Charlestown’s defense came up with yet another big stop and the offense never slowed down after that.
Down 16 late in the third quarter, the Pirates notched three touchdown runs by Gaddie covering 6, 7 and 3 yards – each followed by a two-point conversion run by Lawler. Those 24 unanswered points put the Pirates on top 39-31 with 1:35 left in the game.
“We stayed with it and didn’t quit,” Lawler said.
The raucous Pirates home crowd had a few more anxious moments before the win.
First, the quick-strike Heritage Hills offense did just that as quarterback Caleb Mulzer completed a 40-yard touchdown pass with 1:04 left. The Charlestown defense, which had been vulnerable to big plays, made a big play of its own with a break-up of the two-point conversion pass to preserve the lead.
There was still some football to play – but when Amato Gomez caught the onside kick the Pirates could exhale. The win improved Charlestown to 8-2 and earned the Pirates a game against visiting Brownstown at 7 p.m. on Friday. Heritage Hills finished at 8-2.