Spotswood High School football coach Andy Cammarano couldn’t previously remember if the Chargers ever returned a kickoff for a touchdown during his tenure.
Now that the feat has finally been accomplished, it’s not something the seventh-year mentor will soon forget.
Chase Fee, who rushed 17 times for 176 yards and a touchdown, also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score to rally Spotswood to a dramatic 29-19 comeback victory over three-time defending Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division champion Dunellen on Friday night.
The Chargers, who squandered a 10-point lead, allowing two touchdowns to the Destroyers in the final 5:11, took the lead for good, 23-19, on Fee’s thrilling return with 1:48 remaining.
Steve Sommer returned an interception 40 yards for a score on Dunellen’s ensuing possession to produce the final margin.
With the victory, Spotswood, which improved to 7-0, will now play South River (7-1 overall, 5-0 division) on Saturday for the division crown.
Were it not for the heroics of Fee, who is the Home News Tribune’s Player of the Week, Spotswood likely would have endured a heartbreaking loss to Dunellen for the second consecutive season (the Destroyers rallied from a nine-point deficit for a 29-28 victory on a last-minute field goal a year ago).
Fee, one of just two two-way starters for the Chargers (Shane White is the other), was well rested toward the end of the game because Cammarano opted not to play the junior at defensive back against the run-oriented Destroyers unless they were in obvious passing situations.
After Dunellen built a 19-16 lead, Cammarano had returners Fee and Jeff Szatkowski switch places for the ensuing kickoff, moving Fee to the left side of the field where Dunellen had been kicking off for much of the game.
Fee fielded the ball on one bounce, raced to the middle of the field, headed north then bounced his return to the right sideline, following blockers to daylight before sprinting past a host of defenders to the end zone.
The smallest player on the field, Fee (5-foot-6, 140 pounds) turned in the game’s biggest performance.
He helped the Chargers build a 16-6 lead with a 52-yard touchdown run on an old-school Wing-T play known as a buck sweep, which requires Fee to run parallel to the line of scrimmage before planting his foot and getting vertical on a dime.
“Some kids can and some kids can’t make that cut,” Cammarano said, noting Fee is a different type of back than that which Spotswood has traditionally groomed during his tenure.
“We don’t really have that kid too often. We’ve got kids who are real strong, kids who have good vision and big bodies that drag you around. How often do I have somebody who can bust a 60-yard run?”
Spotswood’s defense, which has forced 17 turnovers (the Chargers have committed just one), bailed Cammarano out twice this season with fourth-quarter goal-line stands to preserve victories over Point Pleasant Beach and Metuchen.
Unable to make a stop against Dunellen, however, the prospect of a long drive and a two-minute drill loomed when the Destroyers took a 19-16 lead.
“I’ve been at Spotswood seven years and I don’t think we’ve had a play like (Fee’s return) that I can remember where we had to make a big play and we got a big play (in that situation),” Cammarano said.
“Finally we got a break where we made a play that broke the game. I really can’t even think of the last time we did that.”
Cammarano said Fee’s performance off the field exceeds how well he played on it Friday night.
“He’s super dependable and a real student of the game,” Cammarano said. “He asks questions and helps other kids learn. He gets really good grades in school, is a real positive kid, gets along with everybody and everybody is rooting for him.
“I have great kids, but if I had to pick somebody to represent the program and be an ambassador, I’d pick him.”
Kyle Moroney (South Plainfield) 15-21-177-2
Kyle Volkmann( Monroe) 12-22-154-2
Malik Pressley (Sayreville) 4-5-140-2
Kevin Hemmings (East Brunswick) 12-18-136-2
Tenni Adewusi (Colonia) 9-16 122-1
Andrew Roberts (J.F. Kennedy) 11-16-114-1
Matt Olivo (St. Joseph) 28-336-3
Doug Ryan (South River) 26-243-3
Elijah Barnwell (Piscataway) 26-200-1
Chewy Chukwuneke (J.P. Stevens) 37-183-3
Chase Fee (Spotswood) 17-176-1
Myles Hartsfield (Sayreville) 3-164-3
Cory Baccarella (Carteret) 18-132-0
Nick LaVecchia (Old Bridge) 24-128-1
Anthony Roberts (J.F. Kennedy) 19-122-3
Sam Pero (Colonia) 13-108-1
Rob Young (Dunellen) 15-102-2
Dontae Strickland (South Brunswick) 12-101-1
Myles Hartsfield (Sayreville) 2-128-2
Kyle Dickerson (South Plainfield) 8-109-1
Dennis Sutton (Perth Amboy) 3-105-1