Phil Anastasia: Alex Mourtos' first catch wins game for Shawnee

Posted: October 29, 2011

Alex Mourtos had a chance to make the first catch of his career in the second quarter.

He dropped the football.

"I thought it was all over," Shawnee's soft-spoken senior wide receiver said.

Not this night.

Not this cool, clear autumn evening when there was magic in the air - and maybe, just maybe, an angel in the end zone.

Mourtos got another chance. He turned the first catch of his career into the biggest moment in recent Shawnee football history.

Mourtos' 14-yard touchdown reception on a fourth-and-4 play with 26 seconds remaining lifted Shawnee to a 21-17 victory over previously undefeated Williamstown in a West Jersey Football League thriller Friday night.

"Just amazing," the 5-foot-11, 162-pound Mourtos said.

Everybody associated with the Shawnee program seemed to feel the same way.

The dramatic, comeback victory over the Braves, the No. 3 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, lifted the Renegades' record to 5-2 and put them in prime position to qualify for the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.

It also was a "signature win," according to Shawnee coach Tim Gushue, and maybe the program's first since the team completed back-to-back runs to the South Jersey Group 3 title in 2007 and 2008.

Best of all, it came as a result of a touchdown catch by a quiet senior who had lost his father to cancer in June.

"Chris Mourtos was so generous to this program," Gushue said of Alex Mourtos' late father, a South Jersey restaurant owner. "His son Harry played for us, too, and anything that any young man needed, he was there for them. He would come to their aid.

"For Alex to catch that pass, it was just a special moment."

After the game, Gushue told the Renegades of visiting Chris Mourtos the night before he died, holding his hand, thanking him for everything.

Rubbing Alex Mourtos' red hair, Gushue said: "Alex, I know he was looking down on us tonight."

Mourtos has been a role player for the Renegades, a part-time starter at wide receiver for a team that prefers the run to the pass.

"I've thrown a few blocks," Mourtos said of his contributions before Friday night.

He thought he missed his big chance to make a catch in the second quarter, when Jamie Jackopin's pass bounced off his hands on a crossing route.

But this was the Renegades' night and Mourtos' night.

Shawnee took a 14-3 lead in the first half as Jackopin fired a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jake Dean and also ran 10 yards for a score.

But Williamstown (6-1) battled back in the third quarter. The Braves took a 17-14 lead, and looked to be sitting pretty when a high snap resulted in a missed Shawnee field goal with just 4 minutes, 51 seconds remaining.

But Shawnee's defense got a stop, thanks to a big tackle by linebacker Wes Hoffner on third and 3. And the Renegades offense received a huge play from junior wide receiver Zach McHale, who caught a Jackopin pass at the sticks on fourth and 10, slipped a tackle, and turned the play into a 40-yard gain to the Williamstown 20.

Three plays later, it was fourth and 4.

Jackopin lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone. His target was a wide receiver with zero career catches.

"When I let it go, I thought I overthrew him," Jackopin said. "He used his speed to get to it. I can't tell you how happy I am for him."

Mourtos made the first catch of his career in the last minute of the seventh game of his senior year. He was in the end zone. He swears he wasn't alone.

"My dad was always there for me," Mourtos said. "He was there with me tonight."

Williamstown 0 3 14 0 – 17

Shawnee 7 7 0 7 – 21

S: Jake Dean 45 pass from Jamie Jackopin (Vince White kick)

W: Mike Burke 27 FG

S: Jackopin 10 run (White kick)

W: John Chamberlin 11 run (Burke kick)

W: Kali Boyce 7 run (Burke kick)

S: Alex Mourtos 14 pass from Jackopin (White kick)


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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