The drought is over in Dover.
After two months without a win (and one without a score), Strawberry Crest can now say it’s undefeated in November after Friday night’s nail-biter of a win over Freedom. The 36-33 final score gets even better from the Chargers’ perspective when looking in the rearview: prior to this game, Crest had only scored 27 points all season.
With the win, the Chargers both avoided a regular-season shutout (finishing at 1-7) and ensured the Patriots would finish winless (0-8) before the upcoming regional play-in round.
Marcus Springfield got Crest started on a high note returning the game’s opening kickoff to the Chargers’ 40-yard line, and then the backfield tandem of Ryan Weems and Jesse Waldrop led the home team’s march downfield until Weems ended Crest’s four-game scoring drought with a five-yard run up the middle for a touchdown with 7:13 left in the quarter.
Freedom didn’t take long to respond, though. On the next drive, Patriots running back Robby Washington put in plenty of work to get his team into Crest’s red zone and wideout Rondarrius Whitehurst caught a Taquawn Anthony pass just shy of the goal line to set up an easy Washington touchdown. Though Freedom couldn’t convert on a two-point attempt, they were able to recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and get Washington back in the end zone just a handful of plays later. A tipped two-point pass ended up in Springfield’s hands, however, so Freedom only had a five-point, 12-7 lead. Then, after forcing a turnover on downs at Crest’s seven-yard line thanks to a bobbled snap, Washington scored again with one run and eight seconds left in the quarter.
When the second quarter started, it was Crest’s turn to score on back-to-back drives. First, Waldrop finished the quarter’s first drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown with 6:20 to go in the half. Crest forced and recovered a fumble at Freedom’s 27-yard line on the ensuing kickoff and the one-two punch of Weems and Waldrop worked its way to the six-yard line before Waldrop hit paydirt once again. A two-point attempt didn’t work, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly, with 3:14 left in the half, the Chargers turned a 19-7 deficit into a 20-19 lead.
Waldrop nearly had a third touchdown in the second quarter right after Crest forced a turnover on downs at Freedom’s 11-yard line by blocking a punt, but that one was called back due to offensive holding. The Chargers eventually had to settle for a 22-yard field goal off the foot of Jackson Hinson to go up 23-19 as time expired.
As soon as the third quarter started, there was action from both sides. Washington started the scoring outburst with a 78-yard run that saw him weave all over the offensive backfield before finding an open lane and darting through it untouched. The Patriots followed that up with a successful two-point conversion to go ahead 27-23.
Then it was sophomore Quincy Hart’s time to shine. On Crest’s next drive, the Chargers got as far as Freedom’s red zone but were pushed back to the Patriots’ 32-yard line. Hart took a pitch to the right side of the field, broke free of several defenders and sprinted the distance for the score. The point-after kick was blocked and Crest settled for a new 29-27 lead. On Freedom’s next drive, the Chargers played solid defense, forced the Patriots inside their own 20-yard line and Hart forced a turnover by intercepting a pass at Freedom’s 25-yard line. Five plays later, Waldrop punched in another score and the Chargers held a 36-27 lead with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
Freedom’s next drive would be its last scoring drive of the game. The Patriots’ drive bled into the start of the fourth quarter and Washington scored on a 41-yard run with 11:24 left to play. The Patriots’ two-point attempt failed, setting the score at 36-33 in Crest’s favor.
The Chargers were forced to punt a little more than four minutes later, but Armando Garcia pinned the Patriots back deep in their own territory and Crest was finally able to keep Washington in check. Facing fourth and long with 3:07 left in the game, Freedom decided to go for it and Anthony’s deep pass attempt fell incomplete.
All the Chargers had to do was run for one first down and drain the clock, and before long they were practically flying into the end zone to celebrate the big win together.