Phil Anastasia: Bounce-back specialists Washington Township stun Williamstown, 42-23, in first round of Group 4 tourney

Washington Township's Thomas Hildebrand (7) starts downfield against Williamstown. Hildebrand completed his final seven passes for 181 yards.
Washington Township's Thomas Hildebrand (7) starts downfield against Williamstown. Hildebrand completed his final seven passes for 181 yards. (GIANNA VADINO / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 13, 2011

Maybe there's something to those Russian kettle bells.

Or those summer workouts that focused more on Wiffle ball than weightlifting.

Or those shorter practices during the season.

What's clear is that Washington Township is a different football team. The Minutemen are the bounce-back specialists of South Jersey.

They rallied from a miserable season in 2010. They rallied from a lopsided loss two weeks ago. And on Friday night, they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to stun Williamstown by a 42-23 score in the first round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.

"He's changed the whole team, and he's changed the whole school," Washington Township quarterback Tom Hildebrand said of Minutemen coach Mark Wechter, the architect of one of the most remarkable transformations in recent South Jersey football history.

The Minutemen trailed, 17-0, midway through the second quarter. They never blinked.

Just like they never blinked after losing to Pennsauken, 40-8, two weeks ago.

Just like they never blinked after going 3-7 last season.

"I like being the underdog," said Washington Township senior wide receiver Mike DeMarco, who started the team's rally by catching a 37-yard touchdown pass from Hildebrand late in the first half. "Nobody expected anything from us this season."

The Minutemen just look charmed this season. That's not to imply they have been lucky, or that there really is an "angel on the shoulder," as Wechter suggested after the incredible comeback victory.

The coach is having one of those magical seasons. After last season, the program's first losing record since 1984, Wechter basically ripped up the playbook and started over. He backed off on the offseason workouts. He shortened practices. He invented a slogan, H.E.A.T., an acronym for heart, effort, attitude, toughness.

He also scrapped traditional weightlifting - a staple of this program's success for 30 years - in favor of work with Russian kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles.

"That's the secret," Wechter said. "We're so strong now, and we're not that big."

The Minutemen received a huge game from Hildebrand, an athletic junior who completed his final seven passes for 181 yards and three TDs.

Junior Chris Colavita caught two touchdown passes. DeMarco caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Andrew O'Neill and Julian Allen returned fumbles for touchdowns as Washington Township ripped off 36 consecutive points after falling into that 17-0 deficit.

"I call them 'the No-Names,' 'the Expendables,' and they love it," Wechter said of his players.

The Minutemen were a nice story when they were 5-1 and a surprise team. Everybody else was waiting for them to fall back to earth.

But guess what? They're going in the other direction. They've scored 73 points in blowing past Shawnee and Williamstown in do-or-die games the last two weeks. This No. 6 seed is 7-2 and heading to meet undefeated and No. 2 Millville in the 4 semifinals.

After the game, the Minutemen serenaded Wechter on his 40th birthday.

"These guys," Wechter said, "never cease to amaze me."

Washington Twp. 0 7 14 21 – 42

Williamstown 14 3 0 6 – 23

W: Dan Collins 20 run (Mike Burke kick)

W: John Chamberlin 3 run (Burke kick)

W: FG Burke 25

WT: Mike DeMarco 37 pass from Tom Hildebrand (Ben Palestino kick)

WT: John Montesjardi 3 run (Palestino kick)

WT: Chris Colavita 9 pass from Hildebrand (Palestino kick)

WT: Colavita 62 pass from Hildebrand (Andrew O'Neill pass from DeMarco)

WT: O'Neill 44 fumble return (Palestino kick)

W: Marquis Little 90 pass from Collins (pass failed)

WT: Julian Allen 16 fumble return (kick failed)

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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