The inaugural Chesapeake Bowl ended up being a bit of a surprise that included nearly two dominant quarters by the North team and then a second half that was dominated by Darius Jennings, Matt Zanellato and Head Coach Biff Poggi’s offense. In a back and forth game it ended how it should, in a tight 30-27 final.
If you only watched the first 29 minutes of the Chesapeake Bowl, you would have thought you were in for a yawner as the North Squad was absolutely dominant in the first half.
After a three and out on the South’s first possession, the North took over from their 48 yard line. George Washington High School and Temple commitment Daquan Cooper went 14 yards on a reverse, Desimon Green had a 7-yard catch, Maika Polamalu picked up five yards on a run and then pass interference was called to set the North up from the eleven yard line. Polamalu ran to the right side, made a beautiful cut-back and went untouched into the end zone to put his team up 7-0.
The South team took over again, but Virginia Tech commitment Kyshoen Jarrett picked off a pass from Zachary Dancel and put the North back in business. Bishop McDevitt quarterback Matt Johnson connected with Penn Hills wide receiver Terrell Roberson on the next play and after that 49-yard touchdown pass the North were rolling 14-0.
Subsequent drives ended up with the North stalling on offense and the South ball carriers and quarterbacks becoming friends with a nasty North defense. Pittsburgh commitment Max Issaka had a tackle for loss, Quinton Jefferson had a sack, Pitt commitment Marquise Wright had a sack and a tackle for loss, Quinton Alston had a tackle for loss, Sheldon Royster came off the edge for a sack and Stanford commitment Patrick Skov broke through for two tackles for loss of his own. Kyshoen Jarrett intercepted Dancel yet again in the end zone for his second of the half. It was a wicked display of power. It was also the last time the North defense dominated the game.
After a botched quarterback-running back exchange resulted in a fumble at the 47 yard line and on the next play Stanford commitment Kevin Hogan hit Penn State commitment Matt Zanellato for 36 yards. Darius Jennings then took a jet sweep into the end zone, making it a 14-7 contest.
The next North series was actually a bit comical as Matt Johnson dropped back to pass, threw a ball intercepted by Keron Coston, but Coston was then stripped by the intended receiver Desimon Green who picked it up and ran with it to the 16 yard line. After a four-yard run by Rutgers commitment Charles Davis, Johnson connected for a 12-yard touchdown pass to Desimon Green, putting the North back up 21-7.
Both teams exchanged the ball a few times and it looked like it might go into halftime at that score, but the neither team was done. The South took over at their 19 yard line and Darius Jennings picked up a first down, followed by a 33-yard connection through the air between Zach Dancel and Ryan Burbrink. Dancel then threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Cincinnati commitment in Malcolm Crockett, making the score 21-14. The North did end up making it all the way down field and had Brett Moore attempt a 51-yard field goal, but that’s a bit much to ask of a high school kicker and it fell short.
After halftime it turned into the Maika Polamalu show and it was also the 15-yard penalty show. Polamalu ripped off runs of 16, 7 and 2 yards in between a late hit and a facemask penalty and Lafayette Pitts kicked in a run as well. The North stalled however and Brett Moore ended up missing a 31-yarder.
This is when Biff Poggi let Darius Jennings make a smart man out of him. Jennings ripped off a first down run of 19 yards, drew a personal foul flag, and then ripped off another first down run. Percee Goings also added some rushes of his own from the quarterback position and then hit Penn State commitment Matt Zanellato for a 28-yard touchdown catch. The extra point was missed, putting the score at 21-20 to the North.
After another failed North drive, the South went right down field again with an 11-yard run from Demond Brown and a 49-yard pass from Darius Jennings to Jordan Kittrell. Michael Branthover capped it off with a 28-yard field goal giving the South their first lead of the game at 23-21 with 1:41 left in the 3rd quarter.
Temple commitment Daquan Cooper gave the North immediate hope with a great return to the 47 yard line on the ensuing kickoff though. Montay Green pounded the ball twice for 8 yards and Jack Tabb picked up a first down on a nice catch for five more. Cooper added a 9-yard catch of his own and just out of field goal territory, the North was forced to go for it on fourth down. Terrell Roberson was wide open in the seam, however he was overthrown on the route, something that happened quite a few times in the game.
Kevin Hogan took the first snap after that failed conversion and hit Matt Zanellato yet again for 51 yards down the sideline, but the North defense would not let Jennings beat them anymore and the South couldn’t move the ball, so Branthover came out to attempt a field goal and we had yet another odd moment. Game rules are that you cannot attempt to block the field goal, however the holder fumbled the snap, so Gateway’s Terry Smith was quick to argue that the ball was dead before the referee let the kicker try it again. He was correct and the ball was handed back to the North, giving them life.
Excellent defense was played by both teams on the next few series, including a game saver by Antonio Hale. Desimon Green was given the ball on a double reverse and threw a bomb to a wide-open Jack Tabb down the right sideline, however it had too much air under it on the cold night and Hale just got a hand on what would have been a sure touchdown and perhaps a North win. Excellent job of closing that gap by Hale.
The finishing touches came in a bit of a surprise. The South was milking the clock as Zachary Dancel ran quarterback keepers for 8 and then 4 yards. Gunnar Waldt also added a 2-yard run. Then, it happened. Dancel took the ball, broke a tackle and flew down the South sideline 53 yards to pay dirt, diving over the pylon for a touchdown and putting his team up 30-21 with only 4:03 left on the clock.
The North got the ball back and went to work with Matt Johnson at the helm who had a 10-yard run of his own to start the drive, which he followed with a 14-yard pass to Desimon Green. They then got seven more yards on a defensive holding call putting them at the 25 yard line. Johnson dropped back to pass, moved out of the pocket and tossed the ball to Jack Tabb who leapt up double-coverage and ripped the ball down for the touchdown. Brett Moore came out and missed the extra point, capping a frustrating night in which neither kicker had much luck, but the game was still in reach at 30-27 if the onside kick worked.
The North was ready to kick and it actually looked as though it might be to the weak side, however Moore put it down to the strong side and it simply didn’t get enough elevation on the cold surface and went out of bounds, ending the game essentially.
I was not able to keep full stats, however the receiving star of the day was definitely Matt Zanellato with 4 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Darius Jennings completed 2 of 3 passes for 68 yards and had 55 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Zach Dancel completed 3 of 6 passes for 78 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also had three carries for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Kevin Hogan completed 4 of 11 passes for 95 yards.
Percee Goings completed 1 of 6 passes for a 28-yard touchdown.
Gary Nova completed 6 of 17 passes for 43 yards.
Matt Johnson completed 4 of 12 passes for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns to one interception.
Ryan Laughlin went 2 for 2 in the game, but banged up his shoulder early on.
The sack the North offensive line gave up was to Kevin McReynolds in the 4th quarter on the final series.
Congratulations to the South team and coaches on their victory and to the North team and coaches on their hard work as well. Frankly, it was a victory for all involved and the entire week was amazing.
We’ll be following up with more interviews and stories as well as MVP’s from the Chesapeake Bowl this week…