Facing a fourth-and-11 and trailing by three points, Berks Catholic sophomore quarterback Johnny Sauppee delivered the play call to his teammates in the huddle.
Making his first appearance at quarterback in a varsity game, Sauppee was thrust into action after starting quarterback Zach Suski suffered a knee injury in pregame warmups.
Now, several hours after he was informed he would start, the Saints’ hopes of a victory relied on the arm of Sauppee, who was still looking to complete his first pass.
Sauppee delivered, connecting with tight end Jake Linderman for a 16-yard completion and a first down with less than a minute remaining.
“I knew I had to step up for the team,” Sauppee said. “I knew I had to make a play. It was just a matter of time that I got one of those throws completed.”
The Saints scored the game-winning touchdown three plays later when running back Connor Pennington scored on a 4-yard run with 12.9 seconds remaining to lift Berks Catholic to a 30-26 comeback victory over Conrad Weiser in a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 4 game on Friday night at Robesonia.
“It felt great,” Pennington said. “I knew I was getting the ball. I got to score there, or it’s the game.”
With just under five minutes remaining, Berks Catholic began its drive on its 20-yard line trailing 26-23. The Saints relied on their signature power running offense to push into Scouts territory.
Sauppee’s pass to Linderman moved Berks Catholic to the 4-yard line with 50 seconds remaining. It was Sauppee’s only completion, as his two other pass attempts were intercepted.
“He really stepped up and kept us together and led the team to a comeback win,” said Berks Catholic associate head coach Dave Stahler, who led the team in the absence of coach Rick Keeley, who missed Friday’s game due to COVID-19. “He’s a competitor, and he competed the whole night.”
After the Saints were stopped on their next two plays, they turned to Pennington on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line with 16 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Pennington ran free around the edge and sprinted for the corner of the end zone, sneaking just inside the pylon to cap the 80-yard drive.
“Connor is as tough and as good a kid as you could possibly ever want to coach,” Stahler said. “At the end of the game, you want your guys you can trust and your guys that have been there and your guys that have been in battles to have the ball in their hands as much as possible.”
After the extra point from Tyler Osorio gave Berks Catholic a 30-26 lead, Saints cornerback Bryce Gumby intercepted Conrad Weiser quarterback Donovan Gingrich on a Hail Mary attempt as time expired to seal it.
“Every time, with this group, it’s a different kid that steps up,” Stahler said. “They are unselfish. Their unselfishness and their willingness to help their teammates be great teammates really showed up tonight.”
Relying on six different ball carriers, the Saints ran for a season-high 320 yards and four touchdowns. Berks Catholic also ran into the end zone on a pair of two-point conversion attempts on its way to a season-high 30 points.
“It was great,” Pennington said about the Saints’ rushing attack. “We put our heads down and we pushed right through it.”
Berks Catholic (2-1, 3-3) opened the scoring late in the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run from fullback Devin Garcia, The senior finished with 82 yards and the score on 13 carries.
The Scouts (1-2, 1-5) got on the board early in the second quarter when running back Javien Rivera scored on a 2-yard run to make it 7-6. The ensuing extra point was blocked.
Following a missed 37-yard field goal on its next possession, Conrad Weiser took the lead midway through the second quarter on a 29-yard touchdown run from running back Sevon Parham. The ensuing two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Scouts led 12-6 at the half.
The Saints took a 15-12 lead early in the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Michael Bradley and a successful run from Pennington on the two-point conversion. Bradley, a senior and Berks Catholic’s leading rusher, finished with 116 yards and the score on 19 carries.
Conrad Weiser responded with a 53-yard touchdown run from Parham with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter, which gave the Scouts a 19-15 lead following the extra point. The senior finished with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries
After a Berks Catholic turnover, Conrad Weiser extended its lead on a 2-yard touchdown run from Gingrich. In addition to the rushing touchdown, Gingrich finished 13-for-23 passing for 92 yards with two interceptions.
Trailing 26-15 with just over 11 minutes remaining, the Saints offense needed to score on back-to-back possessions for the first time in the game. Berks Catholic had committed four turnovers and also failed to convert on a fourth-down play in the first quarter.
“They believed in themselves,” Stahler said. “We’ve been in close games this year.”
Berks Catholic cut it to 26-23 with under eight minutes remaining, as running back Bryce Gumby scored on a 10-yard run and again on the two-point conversion. The junior finished with 65 yards on 11 carries.
After a Scouts punt, the Saints earned the win with the Pennington touchdown to complete their second fourth-quarter comeback this season.
While it wasn’t exactly how they drew it up, Stahler was pleased with the effort from Sauppee and his teammates.
“He really kept it together,” Stahler said. “Him and all his teammates, they competed so hard I’m so proud of them.”
Source: Berkshire mont