Seckman needed a big play from its defense as it trailed by three points entering the fourth quarter of a game that saw the Jaguars and University City trade scores over eight straight possessions.
The Seckman defense then quickly got a quarter’s worth of big plays.
The Jags defense caused three turnovers, including a recovered fumble early in the fourth to set up the go-ahead score, and eventually stopped U. City three yards short of the end zone as time expired to preserve a 34-30 Suburban South Conference victory on Saturday afternoon and spoil the Lions’ homecoming celebration.
“They really responded,” Seckman coach Jamie Critchlow said. “Of course, they gave up a few big plays in there, but they got a turnover the series before to gain more field position in our favor. (U. City) didn’t have any timeouts left, so I knew if we could hold them and tackle a guy inbounds, we’d have a chance to win it.”
With a 34-30 lead with 1:30 left, Seckman (2-2, 2-2) needed to stop U. City’s potent offense for a third straight series.
Starting from his own 37-yard line, U. City senior quarterback DeAndre Williams went to the air and found Alex Henry for a 43-yard reception for a fresh set of downs at the Seckman 20.
Williams, who finished with 203 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-23 passing, found senior Mario Wallace on second down for 10 more yards and a first down with less than 45 seconds left.
Williams missed Henry, who had 116 yards on six receptions, on first down, scrambled for three yards on second down, and found Henry at the 3-yard line, where he was tackled and time expired.
“We had our chances,” U. City coach Carl Reed said. “That’s it. That’s all I can say.”
Seckman senior Zayne Tindall’s fumble recovery early in the fourth may have been more important of a stop.
“We got that big fumble and the momentum shifted our way,” said Seckman senior running back Blake Pepper, who had 147 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries.
Starting from U. City’s 44, down 30-27, Seckman ran on nine of 10 plays to methodically work its way to the end zone, ending with Pepper’s one-yard plunge with 7:18 left.
“We thought we could get their safeties to bite,” Critchlow said. “And we did get a long ball in there to (Cody) Tolliver, but there were some things they were doing up front that we could take advantage of and we did.”
Seckman found a crease in the defense with junior tight end Zach Martin.
“They didn’t have anybody over the top of me,” said Martin, who had 52 yards on four receptions. “The free safety was going out to the receiver and the middle was open.”
Senior quarterback Jeff Dattoli said: “They were blitzing hard, coming hard, and their safety wasn’t playing. Our tight end is a smart kid, and cut across the middle. Just a pitch and catch.”
U. City (1-4, 1-4) looked ready to run Seckman out of the building in the first half, but had at least three big plays called back on penalties. The Lions had seven penalties for 90 yards.
“We shot ourselves in the foot so many times,” Reed said. “The penalties … how many big plays did we get called back on in the first quarter? I just don’t have a lot to say.”
The scoring opened in the middle quarters.
Starting with Tolliver’s 44-yard TD reception from backup sophomore quarterback Devon McCoy, who started because Dattoli was nursing an injured knee, the teams traded scores over the next eight possessions.
Extra points: Dattoli, who had his knee iced and wrapped after the contest, entered the game midway through the second quarter … The teams combined for 18 penalties for 184 yards … Tolliver had 86 yards and two TDs on three receptions … Williams, senior RB Devonte Washington, and senior WR Tony Newman scored rushing TDs for U. City … Seckman next plays at Parkway North at 7 p.m. Friday … U. City visits Rockwood Summit at 7 p.m. Thursday.