DELPHOS — Delphos St. John’s quarterback Brady Kerner completed 17 of 29 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown but his 72-yard touchdown run with 3:36 to play was the clincher in the Blue Jays’ 29-20 win over Parkway in their football opener on Saturday night at Stadium Park.
Parkway had battled back to within one point, 21-20, midway through the fourth quarter in a game the Blue Jays had led from the first quarter.
But after a Parkway punt with 3:51 left in the game to St. John’s 28-yard line, the Blue Jays’ first play was a quarterback keeper by Kerner, who just kept going and going, eluding several tacklers on his way to the end zone.
“We were just hoping he’d get a first down and stay in bounds, keep things moving, keep the clock running. He just kept going. He was all over the place. He touched almost every aspect of our football field,” St. John’s coach Todd Schulte said.
“Brady is just a smart kid. He understands the game and what we’re trying to do. He showed some things there. Maybe people are going to have to keep an eye out for the run now.”
Kerner said, “It was just the coach’s call and it worked out perfectly. I thank the line. They did a great job blocking. I just made the reads and went hard.”
The Blue Jays jumped out to a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on their second possession of the game when they marched 54 yards in seven plays.
Isaac Fairchild’s 4-yard touchdown run ended the drive two plays after a 31-yard pass fron Kerner to Gavin Fitro moved St. John’s inside Parkway’s 10-yard line. Chase Martin added the extra point kick for the 7-0 lead.
Parkway responded with a 14-play, 92-yard scoring drive that took up nearly 7 1/2 minutes of the second quarter.
Eddie Nichols scored the Panthers’ touchdown on a two-yard run with 2:55 left in the first half and also was on the receiving end of a 32-yard pass from quarterback Elijah Rich earlier in the drive. But a problem with the snap on the extra point kick left St. John’s with a 7-6 lead.
After Parkway’s touchdown, St. John’s went 70 yards in seven plays in 1 minute, 56 seconds for its second score of the game.
The second play of the drive, a 48-yard pass from Kerner to Matt Kahny, moved the ball to Parkway’s 22-yard line. A 13-yard run by Fairchild got the ‘Jays to Parkway’s 5-yard line. Two plays later Landen Elwer scored on a 5-yard run and Martin added the kick for a 14-6 lead.
St. John’s lead grew to 21-6 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kerner to Kahny with 7:05 left in the third quarter. Parkway answered with a 56-yard touchdown run by Nichols to make it 21-12 with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers reduced the lead to 21-20 on a 1-yard run by Brendan Etzcorn and a two-point conversion by Elijah Rich with 6:43 left in the game.
“I appreciated the way our kids kind of handled the emotion of the game,” Schulte said. “In the third quarter they were just eating us up and our kids stayed with it and made some gritty plays. We had a lot of great catches tonight. We had guys making plays on both sides of the ball. That’s something we’ve struggled with the last few years is making that play at the right time. It was great to see tonight and hopefully we can build on those.”
Nine St. John’s receivers caught passes in the game, led by Kahny with three catches for 81 yards and Fitro who had three catches for 52 yards.
Coming off a 1-9 season last year, St. John’s was ready for something like Saturday night’s game. And the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic also made playing Saturday night special.
“I told my wife earlier today that I couldn’t remember the last time I was so nervous before a game,” Schulte said.
Kerner said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was so excited for today. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field and play hard.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.