Winning a game in which you turn the ball over seven times is not easy – or fun – but North Central found a way to do just that, defeating Rogers 28-21 in Greater Spokane League football Friday night at Joe Albi Stadium.
Quinn Zerba accounted for all seven Indians (1-2) turnovers, throwing five interceptions and losing two fumbles. However, he was at his finest when it mattered most, evading most of the Pirates (0-3) defense in his own backfield and firing an 80-yard touchdown pass to James Weigel with 5:08 left for the deciding score.
Weigel got help from a teammate mid-play who let him know his quarterback was in trouble.
“Me and my teammate, Marcus Saugen, we ran into each other and he said, ‘He’s rolling out.’ So I just changed direction, came back across the field, and then I was wide open – almost tripped,” Weigel said.
North Central’s celebration was short-lived after the team saw a flag thrown at midfield.
“I saw where the flag was, and I was like, ‘How could that be on us when it was that deep into the (defensive) backfield?’ “ North Central coach Brian Gardner asked. “So I kind of was thinking that it had to have been defensive holding. But you never know. You never know. I was a little sick to my stomach there for a little bit, but they got the call right.”
It was defensive holding.
Rogers had a chance to tie the game on its next possession, and was facing third-and-9 at North Central’s 30-yard line with just over two minutes remaining. Pirates quarterback Dominic Sanders’ pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by defensive lineman William Kearney, and fell into Weigel’s waiting arms for an interception.
“He’s a special player,” Gardner said of the receiver/linebacker. “He’s really stepped it up for us this year. It’s all of the hard work that he’s done. He’s put in a lot of time in the weight room. He’s awesome in the classroom. Couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
Weigel finished with three catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns, as well as the interception. He has 411 receiving yards in three games this season.
Sanders threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Kahlil Winfrey on the game’s first play from scrimmage, giving the Pirates a 7-0 lead just 13 seconds in. He finished with 107 yards passing, going 6 of 19 with an interception. He also rushed for 140 yards on 31 attempts.
Zerba was responsible for 342 of his team’s 356 total yards, throwing for 200 and rushing for 142, including a 68-yard score early in the first quarter.
“He puts a lot on his shoulders, and when he starts making mistakes he can get down,” Gardner said of Zerba. “I just kept talking to him about staying up, being the quarterback and being positive, rallying our guys together. You make a mistake, you got to wash it – that’s what quarterbacks do.”
On the game’s final series, North Central faced a third-and-5 with just over 40 seconds left. Rogers still had one time out left. Zerba plowed straight ahead for 6 yards, sealing the Indians’ first victory.
“You throw a pick, you wash it. You fumble the ball, you wash it,” Gardner said. “He did a really good job of that, and you saw at the end there he made some really big plays.”