With 0:02 seconds remaining, Michael Bozarth kicked a 29-yard field goal to win the Vikings’ season-opener, 38-35, against St. Louis University High. It was a fitting end to a game full of highlights, heartbreak and heroes.
First, it was SLUH’s quarterback, Trevor McDonagh, who aired it out on the initial drive and in three passes had the Junior Billikens in the Vikings’ red zone. Then it was Parkway North’s Donavin Newsom, who picked off McDonagh in the end zone and returned the ball 102 yards for a touchdown. That scene – big catch, big run – would replay throughout the game.
But a fireworks display was entirely expected, considering McDonagh and Newsom are two of the nation’s top college prospects. Less predictable was how many others would contribute to the show, most notably Bozarth and Jovonte Suber, who provided the majority of pop in Parkway North’s punch. Suber, now a senior, broke his collarbone last year on the first day of practice and missed the entire season.
Friday, he scored three touchdowns, and practically carried the Vikings downfield in the closing seconds, setting up Bozarth’s clutch field goal.
“I was confident in Jovonte and Mike,” said Newsom, as he hobbled toward the locker room after the game. “I knew they could do it.”
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, Newsom injured his knee and limped off the field. Just moments before, Parkway North was leading 21-7; now they were clinging to a four-point lead with their marquee player on the bench.
“I knew they had my back,” Newsom said. “We’re like a family. All of the guys have my back.”
With four minutes remaining in the half, Suber weaved his way into the end zone once again, Bozarth kicked another extra point and the Vikings widened their margin to 11.
But SLUH wouldn’t go away. With 3:29 left in the half, McDonagh and his dynamic duo – receivers Mitch Klug and Stefan Sansone – flew downfield again, scored a touchdown and cut the lead back to four. By halftime, both teams boasted more deep passes and catches, long runs and returns, than most teams enjoy in one full season. There was so much offense, in fact, that both teams punted a combined…once.
In the second half, however, a more intense defense emerged. SLUH forced Parkway North to punt on each of its first two possessions, and the Vikings’ red zone stand forced the Jr. Bills to kick a field goal.
McDonagh was starting feel more pressure, too. He was sacked three times in the third quarter, and struggled to find Klug and Sansone as open as they’d been earlier in the game.
“They’re a heck of a ballclub,” said SLUH Head Coach Gary Kornfeld. “They did a nice job in the red zone making us settle for field goal attempts. Parkway North is a very good team.”
But when the Vikings – with less than three minutes remaining in the game – fumbled a pitch in the backfield on their own 14-yard-line, the Jr. Bills pounced on it, and McDonagh quickly seized the opportunity with a quick touchdown pass to Paul Simon. The two-point conversion, a timing play to the right corner of the end zone, tied the score at 35 all.
The Vikings had just over two minutes to move nearly the length of the field, while their most talented player, Newsom, watched from the sideline with an injury the coach described only as a "tweak." Thanks to a relentless offensive line playing much larger than its size, a 152-pound kid one year shy of a broken collarbone, and a kicker more accustomed to PAT’s than walk-off field goals, that’s exactly what they did.
“I’m proud of ‘em,” said Bob Bunton, the Vikings head coach. “I told ‘em ‘you can’t quit,’ and they didn’t. I’m real proud.”