PITTSGROVE TOWNSHIP - Charles Clark and Charles Wynder were the deep return men on kickoffs throughout Wednesday night's football game between Cumberland Regional and Schalick high schools.
But after Schalick had squib-kicked the ball all night, Clark and Wynder moved forward with Cumberland trailing in the final minute of the game.
The Schalick coaching staff saw the move but couldn't do anything about it. The Cougars had no timeouts left.
Clark picked up the kickoff at his own 42-yard line and ran it deep into Schalick territory, setting up Wynder for the game-winning 14-yard touchdown run as the Colts beat the Cougars 27-23 on Thanksgiving Eve.
Cumberland finished the season on a five-game winning streak and now trails the rivalry 5-4 since its inception in 2002.
"I knew everything was on my shoulders and I had to make a play for my team," Clark said of his big return. "It was cluttered at first, and I just started to pick my way through and ran for the end zone."
The Colts dominated defensively in the second half. But midway through the fourth quarter, Schalick got the ball at its own 6-yard line and drove down for the go-ahead touchdown.
Schalick quarterback Henry Thibodeau scrambled to his right on fourth-and-goal from Cumberland's 7-yard line. Thibodeau stopped and threw back across the field into the back of the end zone. Josh Goldsboro dove and came down with the touchdown catch with just 42.8 seconds left.
But Clark's return gave the Colts one last shot.
"We were down, but we couldn't just quit," Clark said. "We had to do something about it. We knew we had to keep our heads up and play football."
Wynder was stuffed for a short gain on the team's first play after the return, and the Colts were forced to use a timeout.
He wouldn't be stopped again.
Following the blocks of his fullback and offensive line, Wynder burst through the line and dragged a pair of Schalick defenders with him across the goal line for the score.
"When we get down near the goal line and we need to score to win the game, I don't give up," Wynder said. "I just keep moving. I get stronger and stronger as I keep running the ball. Our line blocked really good, our fullback got that block and next thing you know I'm in for a touchdown."
It wasn't the first time in the game that the Colts had come back from a deficit.
Cumberland looked sluggish to open the game, and Schalick jumped out to a 13-0 lead with two touchdowns in the first quarter.
The Colts needed a spark, and Steven Garron and Jeron Hadden delivered.
Garron found Hadden on a quick slant and the 6-foot-1, 180-pound wideout did the rest, beating Schalick's defense for a 50-yard touchdown reception.
Cumberland forced a fumble and on the second play of its next drive, Garron found Hadden for a 31-yard touchdown as the Colts went from down 13 to up one in just 1 minute, 2 seconds.
"This was beautiful weather and a great football game," Schalick coach Seth Brown said. "It just (stinks) to be a loser on a night like tonight."
Brown said he was confident his team would win after the late touchdown.
"Any time you go up with 42 seconds left, you feel good," Brown said. "There was the jubilation on our sideline. We got the (sideline) warning and then that fast, the emotion went from here to here (holding his hand over his head and then dropping it down). It's tough to swallow, but our guys fought until the end and as a coach you have to be proud of that."
Schalick got the ball back with just nine seconds left in the game, and a desperation thrown by Thibodeau was intercepted by Clark.
Wynder finished with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Clark had five carries for 49 yards. Garron was 4-for-6 for 102 yards and two touchdowns to Hadden.
Schalick's Kyle Philo went over 1,000 for the season as he rushed for 220 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Contact John O'Kane:
Cumberland Regional 0 14 6 7-27
Schalick 13 3 0 7-23
S-Wargo 2 run (Melnicove kick)
S-Philo 94 run (kick failed)
CR-Hadden 50 pass by Garron (Jenkins kick)
CR-Hadden 31 pass by Garron (Jenkins kick)
S-Melnicove 22 field goal
CR-Wynder 1 run (conversion failed)
S-Goldsboro 7 pass by Thibodeau (Melnicove kick)
CR-Wynder 14 run (Jenkins kick)
TEAM STATISTICS CR S
Rushing 212 309
Passing 102 44
First downs 15 12
Penalties 8-72 6-50
Turnovers 2 2
Rushing-Cumberland, Wynder 30-154, Clark 5-49, Eubanks 2-8, Garron 3-1. Schalick, Philo 14-220, Wargo 9-70, Johnson 8-16, McKoy 1-3.
Passing-Cumberland, Garron 4-6-102-0. Schalick, Thibodeau 5-8-44-1, Johnson 0-1-0-0.
Receiving-Cumberland, Hadden 2-81, Williams 1-14, Clark 1-7. Schalick, Johnson 2-25, Goldsboro 2-20, Philo 1-(-1).
Records-Cumberland 7-3, Schalick 6-4.