By Paul Tenorio
Sunday, December 13, 2009
BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Broad Run quarterback Connor Jessop entered this season thinking he would be the third-string quarterback for the Spartans, a sophomore waiting his turn to run the show.
Instead, he earned a starting job, and on Saturday at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Jessop took the reins of Broad Run's offense when star running back T.J. Peeler went down with a knee injury. Jessop displayed the poise that has made him look more like a senior than a 15-year-old underclassman, guiding the second-ranked Spartans to a second straight state title with three touchdown passes in a 21-16 win over Amherst (13-1).
Jessop took on the pressure not just of living up to his older brother, Chris, who quarterbacked Broad Run (14-0) to a state title last year, but also of being the main threat against an aggressive blitzing Amherst team that no longer had to worry about Peeler. The Spartans' Pittsburgh-bound running back left in the second quarter with a sprained knee and returned to the sideline later on crutches.
"Most kids on our team try to get pumped up before the games and try to get psyched and obviously it works out pretty well," Jessop said. "I try to stay as calm as possible and try not to show I'm nervous even though my legs are shaking with nerves. But I don't know, I guess it's a Jessop thing."
In the face of a Lancers defense that often sends seven and eight defenders after the quarterback, Jessop stood calmly in the pocket and delivered clutch pass after clutch pass, including a 12-yard touchdown strike to Derril Thomas in the third quarter and the game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass to David Weaver with 8 minutes 5 seconds remaining in the fourth.
He finished 12 of 20 with 135 yards and three scores, including a 12-yard fade pass to Syracuse-bound wide receiver Adrian Flemming that opened the scoring in the second quarter.
"You got to do some genetic testing in that family because they're missing a gene that the rest of us don't have," Broad Run Coach Mike Burnett said. "His brother was the same way and he's the same way. They're just, they're unflappable, it just doesn't seem to matter what the situation is."
Jessop's heroics would not have been possible if not for the play of the defense, which kept Broad Run in the game by forcing turnovers on four of Amherst's first five possessions.
"It was hard, we prepared for it we came out and played with passion," senior defensive end Frank Foreman said. "Enough said. We played with passion. That's all we had to do."