Late comeback lifts Saints

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 23, 2002

Chris Voltin charged 34 yards around the left end for a touchdown with 1:33 to play as Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (NSA) roared to a 14-13 comeback victory over host Catholic on Saturday afternoon. Voltin, whose uniform number is 34, and Ryan Johnson scored in the fourth quarter in the win. After a dismal first half in which they lost three fumbles and accumulated only 40 offensive yards, the Saints (4-0) exploded in the second half to remain unbeaten.

NSA’s offensive woes began on their first play from scrimmage, as Johnson fumbled to give the Crusaders a first down in the NSA 21 with five minutes left in the first half. John Randolph and Mike Conley ran Catholic down to the one, and Tyler Garner broke through for the score with 3:35 on the clock.

Adam Keeling returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards to the Saint 41, but the Crusaders broke through to throw Johnson and Voltin for losses, and NSA had to punt. Catholic got all the way to the Saint five, but Matt Kozub’s field goal went off to the left.

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Johnson, Voltin, and Ronald Ricks gave the Saints their first two first downs of the game on the next drive, but Ricks fumbled, and Catholic took over again at midfield.

Griffin Powell picked off a Garner pass on second down, and Jordan Webb rumbled 26 yards to the Catholic 40. But John Tuttle fumbled, and Catholic grabbed the ball – and a chance.

Garner hit Mark Guadagnini with a 27-yard strike at the NSA 37, and then carried the ball down to the 20. The Saints appeared to have stopped Randolph for no gain, but were called for a face mask penalty, giving the Crusaders a first down at the eight. Two plays later, Garner hit Joe Orth in the endzone, giving Catholic a 13-0 halftime lead.

&uot;Everybody was depressed, because we knew we were a better team than we’d been showing,&uot; said Powell. &uot;We had to show that they couldn’t take us down.&uot;

It appeared that the Saints wouldn’t need help to go down in the third quarter. On the opening drive, Johnson carried five times for 18 yards, and a 12-yard dash by Tuttle combined with a holding penalty against Catholic moved NSA to the eight. But Tuttle pitched the ball to no one, and the Crusaders jumped on it.

Three plays later, Tuttle was ejected for punching a Catholic player. Ironically, the Saints took over from then on.

Hunter Richardson snatched the ball from Randolph at the NSA 41, and Johnson and Jeff Cooper churned out 38 yards in the next three plays. An eight-yard dive by Johnson got the Saints to the Catholic 10 as the third quarter ended, and he scored four plays later. Cooper burst through the line for the two-point conversion, and the Saints were on the board, 13-8, with 10:26 to go.

Randolph dashed 10 yards to the Catholic 47, and Garner tossed to Guadagnini at the Saint 39. But the Saints threw Randolph for a two-yard loss, and Powell pulled down another interception at the Saint 27 with 7:11 on the clock.

Johnson gained nine yards on the next three plays, but the Crusader defense held Cooper for no gain on fourth down. Ryan Moring, however, stole the ball from Randolph on the next play, giving the Saints a first down at their own 38 with five minutes to play.

Voltin and Johnson could only gain seven yards on the next three plays, and NSA was faced with a fourth-and-three on the 45. But Voltin snuck through the middle for five yards, and Keeling chopped off eight more to get to the Catholic 42. Johnson ran for eight yards on the next two plays, and the Saints had a second-and-seven on the Catholic 34 with 1:45 left.

Keeling took the snap and faked a handoff to Johnson, who barreled into the right side of the line. With the Crusader defense distracted by Johnson, Voltin took the ball and bolted toward the left sideline. With the first down already in hand, Voltin encountered two tacklers as he neared the 15 yard line. Rather than attempt to run them over, he simply turned up the speed, racing all the way to the endzone.

The point-after try failed, and Catholic was down by only a point. The Crusaders took over at their own 37, and Orth caught a pass at the NSA 44 with 1:22 on the clock. But Garner’s next pass hit Keeling right in the numbers, and the Saints had escaped.

&uot;I was thinking, ‘If I don’t catch this, I’m an idiot!’&uot; Keeling said with a laugh. &uot;But you always play the game like it’s 0-0.&uot;