Tears rolled down Jarred McCafferty’s cheeks as he tried to find the words to describe what he and his Schalick High School football teammates had just accomplished.
The Cougars’ senior quarterback had just enjoyed the game of his life, with a season’s worth of memories rolled into one special quarter.
McCafferty made his Schalick swan song one for the ages, directing four consecutive touchdown drives during the third quarter — in which he threw two TD passes — to cap a 28-13 come-from-behind victory over Cumberland Regional in West Jersey Football League action Wednesday night.
With the win, Schalick finished the season with a 4-6 record and now leads the annual turkey game series, 7-4. The Colts also finished with a 4-6 mark.
In arguably the team’s most stunning comeback victory in the last 10 years, the Cougars tallied a trio of touchdowns in just 5 minutes, 21 seconds. Tyrell Hart (110 yards) and Nick Crisafulli (89 yards) garnered rushing scores while McCafferty hit tight end Jake Ebner for an 11-yard scoring strike and found Melvin Allen for a 31-yard scoring reception.
McCafferty, who finished with 121 passing yards, credited Schalick’s underclassmen with helping to send off Schalick’s 10 seniors with a game they won’t soon forget.
“This may be some of the best football we played in my four years as a Cougar,” he said. “This was our last 24 minutes; we really emphasized that (at halftime). I knew we had it in us and would come out and play football like that. We said don’t give up.”
What made the third-quarter rally even more unlikely was the performance of sophomore kicker Joe Merker, who executed consecutive onside kicks following each of the first two scores. Thomas Kidwell pounced on both balls.
When Allen caught the 31-yard pass, which he hauled in after it was tipped by Colts’ defender Anthony Thomas, Schalick owned a 21-13 lead with 4:42 left in the third quarter. Cumberland had not run a single play.
“It all starts with every single person; when everyone does their job, it gets done,” Merker said. “It comes from playing soccer all these years. We’ve practiced, practiced, practiced that all season. We just never gave up, never quit on each other.”
A 60-yard run by Hart set up the final score, which was Crisafulli’s first varsity TD. Schalick’s defense took care of the rest, with fourth-quarter fumble recoveries by Alex Stewart and Sha’Mirr Kennedy sealing the verdict.
Schalick coach Seth Brown was overwhelmed with joy following the final whistle.
“After the last three and a half weeks … I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We’ve been preaching for 10 weeks, just play. What an emotional rollercoaster this season, this game, turned out to be.
“It’s almost like a movie script. This is a completely different team from what we saw at Haddon Township. To play as bad and as flat as we did, then to come back the way we did tonight, it’s really special.”
Cumberland bolted out to an early lead on the strength of an 18-yard scoring strike from quarterback Steven Garron to Gabe Hemighaus on the game’s first drive. The Colts upped that advantage to 13-0 on the first play of the second quarter when De’Han Milledge exploded for a 52-yard TD run.
Schalick’s best scoring chance in the opening half went by the boards when Thomas intercepted a McCafferty pass in the end zone in the first quarter. But the graduating quarterback will long remember the third quarter, and the feeling of victory.
“I’ll be able to look back 20 years from now and tell my kids,” McCafferty said.