Leading Toronto 28-21 early in the fourth quarter, St. John Central first-year head coach Jason Merryman liked his team's chances as the Red Knights were faced with a second-and-38 from their own 47.
"We knew what was coming. We told (the defense) a screen pass was coming," Merryman lamented afterwards. "And, not only did (Toronto) complete it, it went for a touchdown. What else can you say?"
The 53-yard scoring strike from Blaze Glenn to brother Chez Glenn jump-started the Red Knights (2-4) to a 27-0 fourth-quarter explosion that led to a come-from-behind, 48-28, victory over the Irish (2-4) before an overflow Homecoming crowd at the sun-splashed Irish Youth Sports Complex in south Bellaire.
ST. JOHN wide receiver Alex Francis goes up for a catch against Toronto’s Blaze Glenn during Saturday’s game in Bellaire. The Red Knights rallied for a 48-28 victory against the Irish.
"To me, that was the play of the game," Merryman added. "We had them in a second and long situation and we were up by one score."
Veteran Toronto head coach Eric Meek agreed.
"That was a big play ... the screen," he said. "We've got some good team speed, so we try to utilize it. I've been trying to throw screens for years. We're finally doing well with it.
The game was a track meet for the most part as the two small school rivals went toe-to-toe until the screen pass turned the tide.
Blaze Glenn, just a freshman, dropped back and tossed a short pass to Chez Glenn, a junior, behind the line of scrimmage. The diminutive Glenn weaved his way through some traffic, found daylight and was off to the races down the far sidelines. Joey Chadwick, who had a very busy day, tacked on the PAT to tie the game at 28.
The play seemed to deflate the Irish, who never regained any momentum.
Forced to punt after a 7-yard loss and a delay of game penalty, Toronto's Charles Ross III returned Dario Paolina's 29-yard punt 22 yards to the St. John Central 20.
Four plays later, C. Glenn burst over right tackle for a 9-yard scoring jaunt. Chadwick's extra-point gave the visitors their first lead of the afternoon at 35-28 with 7:48 left to play.
St. John Central tried to get back in the game via the airways, where it had a lot of success in the first half, but D.J. Shoemaker's pass deep down the field was picked off by Chadwick, who ran it back 62 yards for a pick-6. He then booted the PAT for a 42-28 margin.
But the junior wasn't finished. Paolina took over when Shoemaker was injured on the play, and his third attempt was pilfered by Chadwick, who sprinted 30 yards to paydirt.
"We gave up a short field too many times, especially in the kicking games," Merryman noted. "And we turned the ball over too many times."
The Irish built the first half lead through the air as Shoemaker clicked on 9 of 13 for 166 yards and three scores. His first completion went to Paolina for an electrifying 80-yard touchdown.
Falling backwards, the strong-armed Shoemaker unleashed a bomb down the far sidelines that Paolina caught at midfield and outran everyone to the end zone. His PAT made it 7-0.
Toronto answered as Ross III fielded a Paolina punt at his own 24. Several nifty moves later, he was celebrating his 76-yard return in the end zone. Chadwick tied it the the extra-point.
A pair of Shoemaker-to-Alex Francis TD passes of 14 and 17 yards gave the Irish a 21-14 lead at the half, as Chez Glenn had a 4-yard scoring run in between. The first Irish scoring drive covered 92 yards on 16 plays and chewed up 8:34 off the clock. The second score came with 1.9 seconds before the half.
Toronto drew even on another 4-yard scamper by Chez Glenn on the opening possession of the third quarter.
Shoemaker's 9-yard run capped a 9-play, 62-yard drive that used up 4:18.
However, that would be it for St. John Central's offense. On its final four possessions, it punted once, had two interceptions run back for touchdowns and had the ball when the clock ran out.
"We've outscored our opponents two weeks in a row after the half. That makes it 56-7 in our favor when we are down at the half," Meek said. "It's good to get two wins under our belts because we've got a high-scoring Beallsville team coming to town next week."
Chez Glenn led the Red Knights on the ground with 73 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns. Blaze Glenn added 68 on 16 totes. He also completed 5 of 11 passes for 87 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Shoemaker didn't complete a pass after the half, while also running for 68 yards on 14 trips. However, he had to be taken from the sideline by ambulance after being injured. Francis had five catches for 63 yards.
St. John Central boards the bus Friday night for a trip to Pine Grove to meet Valley.
Kristen Russell selected the odd-colored rose (red) at halftime to become St. John Central's 2012 homecoming queen.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org