“We just have to be resilient, not put our head down,” said Elliott. “When they make a play, we’ve got to pick our heads up and go make a play ourselves.”
The players took his words to heart during a frenzied fourth quarter in which the teams combined for four go-ahead touchdowns in the final eight minutes, the last of which came on Rashawn Shields’ 18-yard touchdown pass to Neil Norris with 1:25 left to play that put Chesapeake on top for good as the Cougars defeated the Mustangs, 22-19.
The victory was Chesapeake’s first over Meade since a 36-0 homecoming-night win in 2007.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Shields. “Everybody was doubting us coming into the game, friends calling me saying we’re going to lose. We played our hearts out, and we got the win.”
View a photo gallery of Chesapeake vs. Meade
The victory came in wildly exciting fashion before a packed home crowd, but it looked early as though Chesapeake might have a tough time handling Meade’s speed and athleticism. The Mustangs took a 6-0 lead when quarterback Jeremy Washington lobbed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Shamar Billingslea in the front right corner of the end zone midway through the first quarter.
Offensively, Chesapeake struggled to find a rhythm, not making a first down until late in the second quarter, but the team was kept afloat by its defense. Penetration on the line and run-stuffing tackling up the middle by Mike Parkent, Trace Sullivan, Tim Steele, Alex Stutz, Tavian Vann, Croix Danko, Anthony Casalino and Ethan Shomler threw the Mustang offense out of whack, and Chesapeake’s offense finally capitalized late in the second quarter when Shields completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jason Sutton with 29 seconds remaining. The point after was good by Mike Altman, and Chesapeake took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Both teams were beset by penalties in the third quarter as the sides essentially battled for field position without either managing to break through with a big play.
That all changed in the fourth quarter, when Washington hit Will Huff over the middle for a 50-yard gain on 4th-and-six that brought the Mustangs down to the Chesapeake 31-yard line. From there, Washington threw another perfect touchdown pass to Billingslea, almost identical to the pair’s first-quarter connection. The point after failed, and Meade led 12-7 with 7:31 to play in the game.
A 27-yard kickoff return by Norris gave Chesapeake good field position at its own 47-yard line.
At that point, the Cougars needed a big play from the offense. They received a positively famous one.
On third down, Shields rolled to the right and fired a strike to Colin Cluster for a nine-yard gain. As Meade’s linebackers converged on Cluster, he pitched to a wheeling Sutton; a hook-and-ladder. Sutton caught the lateral and was gone up the sideline, blazing his way to a 53-yard touchdown and a 14-12 Chesapeake lead.
Elliott said Meade’s rotation opened up the trickery tab in his playbook.
“The play before, we were in a long situation, and [Meade] rolled back into a cover two, and put one less guy on that side of the field,” he said. “So when they rolled to that, it opened up the hook and ladder.”
Sutton wasn’t so sure.
“I was like, ‘Wow, is this going to work?’” Sutton said after the game, all smiles. “But once I knew Colin caught it, I knew it was going to work. I was getting chased by the Meade guy who’s fast, so I just kicked it into gear, ran down the sideline, touchdown, and I was happy. It’s a great feeling.”
Celebratory madness coursed through the stadium as the Chesapeake players went nuts on the sideline and the fans watched in delighted disbelief.
Hold your Mustangs; Meade was not finished. The Mustangs came right back, as Washington found Huff over the middle for a 60-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point, Meade held a 19-14 lead with 4:02 left.
After receiving the kickoff, Chesapeake’s fate looked nearly sealed when the Cougars failed to move the ball and faced 4th-and-10 on their own 41-yard line, but Shields fired a clutch strike to Cluster for a 14-yard gain and a new set of downs with 1:49 remaining.
Shields ran for nine yards on the next play, and Meade was flagged for an illegal conduct penalty, placing the Cougars on the Mustang 18-yard line with 1:40 to play.
That’s when Shields rolled out and fired a deep lob to the corner of the end zone. The ball just cleared the outstretched fingers of two Meade secondary players and hit Norris in the chest for a 20-19 Chesapeake lead and another thunderous eruption of cheers.
Shields hit Mike Blum in the middle of the end zone for a two-point conversion that gave the Cougars a 22-19 advantage.
After the ensuing kickoff, Steele sacked Washington on first down, and Meade made short gains on second and third down. Vann sacked Washington on 4th-and-nine to give the ball back to Chesapeake with 10 seconds left, and Shields killed the clock with a kneel-down to complete the win.
Steele said the defense helped turn the tide for the Cougars in the first half and into the third quarter.
“I have to give it up to our D-line,” said the senior linebacker. “We pushed through. We read the runs and made tackles. After the line started pushing through and we started making tackles, the momentum changed. You could feel it on the field.”
He added it was the best game he’s ever been a part of.
“The adrenaline was pumping,” Steele said. “Both sidelines. It was a really good game. I’ve got to give it up to Meade. I have never played a game this good before in my entire life.”
Elliott reiterated the importance of his pregame message, saying it doesn’t apply just to football.
“The most important thing for me is just that we didn’t quit,” said Elliott. “If our kids come away with one thing tonight, it’s to learn that in life, no matter when you’re down or when things aren’t going well, no matter how bad the situation, you just keep battling and keep fighting. That’s the biggest thing. Three different times we could have put our heads down, and we just didn’t quit, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
View a photo gallery of Chesapeake vs. Meade
- Shields finished 15 of 22 passing for 71 yards and three touchdowns. Sutton tallied 110 yards rushing to go with a touchdown reception and the hook-and-ladder score. Sullivan and Casalino led Chesapeake with five tackles each, and Vann has four tackles.
- The Chesapeake cheerleading team built a bridge to the future as they helped choreograph the dance routine for the Little Cougars cheerleaders, performed at halftime of the game.
- Sutton credited his offensive line of Javon McHenry, Croix Danko and Garrett Elseroad as well as Kevin Blades and Adonis Parker with clearing space for him to run. “I believed in my linemen, and I believe in myself, and I just went out there and did my best,” Sutton said. “I knew my linemen were going to do it for me, and I was just going to push off them, and I told them, ‘I got you.’”