Broad Run High senior football quarterback Chris Jessop has not been called upon to win many games through the air this season. It has not been necessary because the Spartans have had such a prolific running attack with running backs Breon Earl, "Mr. Outside" and TJ Peeler, "Mr. Inside."
But Jessop was called upon to throw the football during Broad Run’s 13-0 state title game win over Amherst County last Saturday in Lynchburg. Amherst County, the two-time defending state champion, was focused defensively on stopping Broad Run’s ground attack, believing the Spartans would not want to pass with frequency in the snowy conditions.
But Broad Run realized it might have to use its aerial game against a stingy run-defensive team like Amherst County. While Peeler (65 yards) and Earl (50 yards, one TD) ran hard with some success against the Lancers, it was Broad Run’s passing attack, led by Jessop and unheralded junior wide receiver Adrian Flemming, which perhaps made the biggest impact of the game offensively for the Spartans.
<b>FROM THE GAME’S first play from scrimmage when Jessop hit Flemming across the middle for 19 yards, Broad Run’s passing attack was in good form. While the falling snow and slippery conditions caused havoc for Amherst County quarterback Anthony Rose (0 for 3), Jessop and the Spartans enjoyed success through the air.
"We started off [early on] with a couple of easy pass screens and short dinks to Adrian," Jessop said.
The Lancers’ defense did manage to pressure Jessop at times when he dropped back and did sack the Spartan quarterback on two occasions. But Jessop, often utilizing the play action, made plays when he had to.
His perfectly thrown touchdown pass to Flemming in the final seconds of the first half was perhaps the game’s biggest play. On the second-and-goal play from the Amherst 10, Jessop dropped back and lofted a high pass left toward the back of the end zone. Flemming, despite having a defender on him, caught the pass for the game’s first touchdown. The electrifying play capped an 80-yard, 19-play drive in which Jessop completed six passes for 60 yards.
"I got the snap, threw it and he got under it," said Jessop, of the scoring play. "That’s our No. 1 [play] to Adrian."
Flemming was determined to catch the ball and break the scoreless tie.
"All I thought was let’s get the first touchdown of the game and set the tone for the game, " said Flemming, who caught five balls for 60 yards in the win. "We used both our running and passing game to win the game."
Late in the game when Broad Run was trying to build on its 7-0 lead, the Spartans faced a fourth-and-9 at the Amherst 28. With more than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lancers were still alive. But they had to make the fourth-down stop. They couldn’t. Once again, Jessop hit Flemming on a timing pass play down the left sideline. Flemming, once again crowded by a defender, reached up to grab the ball for a pickup of 23 yards to the Lancers’ 5. Four plays later, Earl scored from 3 yards out on a fourth-down pitchout right play to seal the victory for the Spartans.
<b>BROAD RUN</b> coach Mike Burnett was thrilled that Flemming came up with such a huge game. The talented 6-foot-4-inch, 192-pound wideout has not always had a lot of balls thrown his way this season because of the Spartans’ offensive philosophy. But Flemming’s team-first mind-set has endeared him to his coach.
"He’s the most unselfish kid I’ve ever been around," said Burnett, of Flemming. "He never complains. He makes the blocks downfield. He does everything. When we needed him [today] he made two great catches."
The coach was also thrilled with Jessop’s championship game outing. The signal caller has not been called upon to be spectacular for his team, but to efficiently run the team’s run-oriented offense. But against Amherst County, he played a solid all-around game and also made the big plays when he had the chance.
"For him to step up and shine tonight, I’m happy for him," said Burnett, of Jessop. "He’s a great kid and a great game manager."
Jessop threw the ball well in difficult playing conditions and, at times, under a severe pass rush.
"He’s a great quarterback," said Earl. "He stood in there and took licks on a few plays."
But in the end, it was Jessop and his Broad Run teammates who got the biggest lick in. As a result, the Spartans are the new state champs while Amherst is licking its wounds.