Hopefully, following last Friday night’s ultra dramatic Sully Bowl football clash between the Chantilly Chargers and Centreville Wildcats, neither of the two Concorde District teams will be emotionally spent for the remainder of the season.
Throughout the game, which took place at Centreville, the atmosphere surrounding the cross-town rival contest between the two local unbeatens was at a fever pitch. The home team Wildcat fans, many attired in black clothing, made a tremendous, collective roar whenever their team gave them a big play to cheer on.
In the end, the home team fan base saw its hopes realized when the Wildcats, in a double overtime affair, outlasted the determined, talented Chargers, 27-26.
“It was a great atmosphere and very exciting to be a part of,” said Chantilly coach Mike Lalli, of the game. “It reminded me of some of our Westfield and Oakton games of recent years. It was a tough way to lose; however there is no good way to lose. The team played well and Centreville played well.”
The drama surrounding the build-up to the game could be felt as one walked from the parking lot on into the William Trussell Stadium. Student-created signs in support of the Wildcats were displayed outside the ticket gate and stadium entrance. `Welcome to Senior Night,’ stated one school-colored blue and black sign, while another read, `We Are Centreville.’ A third sign recalled the 2000 football Wildcats, who had captured the state title nearly 10 years earlier and were to be honored at halftime of this night. The sign read, `Centreville High School 2000 State Champs; Thanks for the Memories.’
Lest Chantilly faithful felt out of place, there were plenty of Charger supporters on hand, most of them in the visiting side bleachers. The Chantilly fandom, indeed, had a strong showing and stood behind their heroes throughout the night.
<b>THERE WERE</b> so many golden moments throughout the week seven game, in which both teams entered with perfect 6-0 records. The game’s intensity level reached new heights late in regulation as Centreville, trailing 13-7, began a drive at its own 18 yard line with about five minutes remaining. Chantilly, moments earlier, had broken a 7-7 deadlock when running back Jimmy Hicks (110 yards rushing, 4 TDs), on a second-and-goal, off tackle right play, broke through and into the end zone. Chantilly did not convert the extra point but the Chargers led 13-7.
Now, with time dwindling down, Centreville needed to go on a scoring drive, which it did – although it was hardly ordinary by any means. A key play came when Centreville faced a third-and-eight from midfield. Quarterback Chance Roman (8-of-18, 108 yards, 3 TDs) threw a deep sideline pass down the right side of the field which went well out of bounds and was uncatchable. But a pass interference call gave the Wildcats a first down at the Chantilly 35 with three minutes remaining.
Centreville took advantage and continued its drive to the nine where it faced a game-determining fourth-and-nine play with 1:29 remaining. Roman dropped back and threw the ball just as he was getting hit. The aerial, intended for Connor Coward, was batted down at the goal line by Chantilly senior linebacker Brien Bracco. The Chantilly players leapt for joy, believing their offense would take over on downs following the fourth down play. But, in the game’s biggest moment, Chantilly was penalized on a questionable late hit to the quarterback.
The Wildcats had new life with a first down on the three with less than a minute on the clock. Three plays later, a delay penalty against the offense moved the ball back to the eight. But on a third-and-goal play, Roman lofted a high ball towards the right corner of the end zone. Centreville junior wideout Chase Walter (5 catches, 79 yards), being covered tightly, jumped high into the air and came down with the ball for a touchdown, igniting the thrilled home crowd and sparking an end zone celebration by the Wildcats which, in the officials’ eyes, warranted a 15-yard penalty.
The touchdown, which came with about 45 seconds left, counted but Centreville was moved back 15 yards for its extra point conversion try to the 18. The point-after missed and, incredibly, the game was tied at 13-13 and headed for overtime.
“It was an audible [at the line] and Chance threw a perfectly thrown ball,” said Walter, of the touchdown play. “The defender was on me. It was good coverage.”
Then, with a laugh, Walter, who in the second half wore a brace on his right shoulder following a first half injury, said, “I pushed him, he pushed me. I just came down with [the ball]. It was just an unbelievable game. No one has seen a game like that in a long time.”
Of the roughing the passer penalty call against his team that had helped set up the game-tying touchdown, Lalli, the Chantilly coach, shrugged it off as part of the game.
“We felt like we could have done better and therefore not have a referee decision be a discussion with the outcome of the game,” he said.
Prior to the start of the game-tying scoring march, Centreville coach Chris Haddock let his offense know what was on the line.
“We were struggling moving the football a little,” said Haddock. “I said, `Guys, this is the biggest drive of the season.’ Chase Walter is absolutely a phenomenal football player. He had a little shoulder problem [in the first half] but he went back in.”
<b>BOTH TEAMS</b>, in the first overtime, scored touchdowns on their respective set of downs from 10 yards out – Centreville running back Manny Smith (65 yards rushing) scoring from seven yards away on a second down play, and Chantilly’s Hicks, on second down, also scoring from the seven. So, going into the second overtime, the score was 19-19.
Chantilly got the ball first this time and, on a second down play from the three, found pay dirt again when Hicks slammed off the left side and into the end zone. Billy Germain’s extra point kick made it 26-19.
So Centreville had to score at least seven points on its possession to tie the score and perhaps force a third overtime. The Wildcats looked to be in trouble after gaining just two yards on its first two plays. But on third-and goal from the eight, Roman threw left towards Coward, who caught the ball at the one yard line before fighting towards and falling into the end zone to pull his team within 26-25.
But then Haddock, the Centreville coach, elected to go for the two point conversion and the win. Chantilly called a timeout prior to the conversion play. But when the teams lined up for the play moments later, the Chargers jumped offsides, moving the ball from the three to the one-and-a-half yard line. From there, Smith was given the ball off the right side. He hit traffic near the goal line and the play was over. Time seemed to stop as everyone waited for the call as to whether Smith had scored. Then, the call came – Smith was ruled to have crossed the goal line plane and the Wildcats had won, 27-26.
The Centreville players wildly celebrated as classmates from the bleachers swarmed the field to join them. Chantilly players could only look on, perhaps a little bit in disbelief. A few minutes passed before both teams lined up and went through the postgame congratulatory handshakes.
Of going for the two points and the win, Haddock said, “I felt if we could get them to jump and get one-and-a-half yards [closer] I’d take my chances with No. 5 [Manny Smith].”
<WHILE THE GAME’S> final minutes of regulation and overtime sessions were spectacularly exciting, there were some never-to-be-forgotten moments earlier in the game as well. One of those moments came midway through the third quarter when Coward, the Centreville punter, made a great play to divert disaster. He was setting to punt on a fourth down play from the Wildcats’ own 20.
The snap was high and Coward moved towards his right to go after the loose ball with Chantilly players quickly converging. He somehow picked the ball up and in the same motion got off the punt with his right foot. With the help of a nice bounce, it ended up being a 64-yard punt.
Another standout play in the game occurred in the final seconds of the first half. Centreville, trailing 7-0, had the ball at the Chantilly 19 yard line where it faced a fourth-and-goal with 25 seconds showing. Roman dropped back and moved right. He then looked back left and spotted receiver Ken Ekanem all alone down field. He threw to his the wide open Ekanem, who caught the ball in the end zone. Chantilly had blitzed on the play and the Wildcats had found the open man.
“It was a waggle play to the right,” explained Ekanem. “Chance stopped and threw it to the left. I saw how wide open I was. I just focused on the ball and caught it. …This win feels amazing. [The whole game] was just insane.”
There were a myriad of outstanding, breathtaking and clutch plays made by both teams throughout the game. The fans were almost just as involved as the players, getting into each and every snap as if a region title was on the line.
“It was electric,” said Haddock. “I’m so glad that the kids and the community could be a part of something like this. This is what a rivalry should be. Chantilly has a fantastic team.”
Lalli said his team will be able to move on from the tough loss.
“They are young and forget things quickly,” he said. “It is the coaches that it lingers with. We have a big rival this week to focus on so I think they will be fine and ready to play.”
Chantilly will host Westfield this Friday night at 7:30. Centreville, meanwhile, will host Oakton.