By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD – It would have been about as big of a win as the Wildwood High School football has had in many years.
Instead, the Warriors were left rueing missed opportunities and thinking about a lot of “what ifs.”
Wildwood failed to score on two possessions inside the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter with the score tied and Haddon Township went on to return an interception for a touchdown with 2:34 left for the winning score as the Warriors fell, 12-6, in a spirited contest at Maxwell Field Friday.
Haddon Township (6-1) improved its Group I playoff chances with the victory, while Wildwood (2-5) was left extremely frustrated by the result.
Warrior coach Ken Loomis pulled no punches after the game, placing blame squarely on himself.
“I told the kids this loss is on me,” Loomis said. “We had two chances inside the 10 and the (plays) I called just weren’t the right ones. Our defense was unbelievable all night, our special teams played great and our offense was clicking and moving the ball. But I let us down.”
On a possession that started late in the third quarter and finished early in the fourth, Wildwood was stopped on downs at the 1-yard line. But Wildwood’s Anthony Freeman ripped the ball from the Haddon Township quarterback’s hands after a short run on the next play to set up the Warriors at the Hawk 4-yard line. After Junior Hans was stopped at the 1-yard line on a running play on second down, the Warriors fumbled the ball away on the next play.
Wildwood got the ball back late in the quarter and advanced across midfield but a fourth-down pass was intercepted near the sideline by Haddon Township’s Josh Dockery, who ran 69 yards untouched for the touchdown.
Following Haddon Township’s go-ahead score, Wildwood converted a fourth-down pass to move across midfield in the final two minutes but eventually turned the ball over on downs.
“Like I told the kids, losing feels worse than winning feels good,” Loomis said. “I felt like we had the game. We had them on the ropes and we were going for the knockout punch and when you whiff it just hurts.”
Haddon Township opened the scoring on a 22-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter.
Wildwood responded in the third quarter, when Anthony Freeman caught a relatively short pass from Hans and ran past the Hawk defense for a 70-yard touchdown reception.
Wildwood is scheduled to host Riverside for its Homecoming game on Saturday at noon. The game will air live on 98.7 The Coast, with live video available on the Coast Sports Today Facebook page.