WEST WARWICK — Thursday was finally the night.
The start of this Interscholastic League football season coincided with the validation of Shaun Shultz and DionDre Chase. West Warwick has officially come back from the cold.
The Wizards looked down and out in the third quarter against Cranston West, but that was far from the case. His elders have been through enough adversity on the field during their first three seasons: It was time to fight back. They did it in the form of 20 unanswered points.
Chase broke up a kickoff return for a touchdown. Shultz intercepted a pass for another touchdown. He went on offense for the clincher, hitting from 3 yards out with 4:01 left, giving West Warwick a slight 30-27 upset.
In the countryside:Coach Wes Pennington has brought a new identity to West Warwick High School football
Around the state:Nine stories to watch this high school football season
“We told ourselves we’ve overcome adversity before when we were younger,” Shultz said. “We knew we could get it out of ourselves. He plays all four quarters to the end.”
A pair of league wins last fall represented a real step forward. The Wizards were a breather on the schedule in years past and have lost three in a row to Thanksgiving rival Coventry. They had strayed far from the championship standard set by some of their predecessors.
Perhaps a little of that came back on this perfect night at Maznicki Field. The Falcons aren’t that far from battling the elite in Division I, and they looked confident after Kelan Cornell scored on a 1-yarder midway through the third quarter. That and a pair of earlier rushing touchdowns from speedster Marcus Chung made it a 27-10 game, the second time Cranston West enjoyed a 17-point cushion.
“Our entire football career we’ve been down,” Chase said. “We have been defeated: 50 points, 30 points. So we’re used to that, and we have a heart.
“We did not give up. We keep pushing. And we won the game.”
Chase provided the spark in the ensuing kickoff. He split the coverage team in half and sliced down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. Karl Swanson’s next interception kept the Falcons from getting their groove back on offense: They managed just 14 total yards in the final 18 minutes.
“The last two seasons we haven’t really played like that,” Shultz said. “We came and played with a sincere heart.”
The Wizards pulled off something even better on their next defensive drive: a touchdown that made it a one-touchdown game. Shultz stood in front of a pass to the right wing and had nothing but green grass in front of him. He ran 70 yards down the field road, and suddenly it was a 27-24 game.
“There was nothing but clear skies the whole way,” Shultz said. “I was getting tired towards the end. I kept looking behind me.”
Cranston West couldn’t come up with an answer on their next possession, and West Warwick turned to their veterans for another key play with the clock ticking down to just under 6:00. The Wizards called Chase’s number on a fourth down near midfield, and he broke free from left tackle after getting bottled up in the backfield. That 43-yard run gave West Warwick first-and-goal at the 8-yard line, and Shultz was called up two plays later.
“It’s very exciting to be a running back,” Shultz said. “You want the ball and you want to run. It was as if the gates of heaven opened.”
Shultz charged 3 yards to the stomach for the game-winning touchdown. James Branch IV provided the exclamation point with a sack in the final minute, and the Wizards recovered a fumble inside the Falcon 5. West Warwick quarterback Brady Miale took a knee in victory formation – the celebration that followed felt very expected.
“When I was in ninth grade I was 14 years old, half of our team was 14 years old,” Chase said. “They were beating us. Now that we are older, we have all grown up. We have all become stronger. Best technique, everything.
“We just work hard enough.”
Cranston West 7 13 7 0 – 27
Warwick West 3 7 7 13 – 30
CW – Marcus Chung 44 runs (Jack Majcher kick)
WW – Kieton Nunes 25 field goal
CW – Chung 4 run (Majcher kick)
CW – Evan Medeiros 35 pass from Kelan Cornell (miss kick)
WW – DionDre Chase 2 run (Nune’s kick)
CW – Cornell 1 run (Majcher kick)
WW – Chase 75 kickoff return (Nune kick)
WW – Shaun Shultz 70 interception return (Nune kick)
WW: Shultz 3 Execution (Missed Kick)
On Twitter: @BillKoch25