Senior staff writer
It’s in his genes.
Roncalli senior Derek O’Connor made his first start at quarterback Friday against host Southport.
O’Connor, a third-generation quarterback, is the grandson of former Sacred Heart High School signal caller Bernie O’Connor and son of former Roncalli QB BJ O’Connor.
O’Connor lived up to his heritage by connecting with 5-7 receiver Nick Fischer on an 80-yard game-winning touchdown with only 17 seconds left in a tense rivalry at Perry Stadium. The Rebels won 25-21.
“I got a little pressure at the beginning of the play, rolled to the right and they (receivers) were all covered, but one of them got through so I moved to my left,” O’Connor said. “I saw Nick waving his arms about 30 to 40 yards downfield. I threw it down there; he made a great play and got in.”
Fischer commented, “I went down 30 yards, saw their safety on the other side, so I started jumping up and down because I knew Derek was going to roll back around and would see me. I grabbed it and just pumped it to the end zone.”
The stunning pass play came on the first play after Roncalli’s defense forced Southport to punt from the 45.
The Cardinals led 21-10 on Andrew Mappes’ 79-yard TD sprint with 10:23 left. Roncalli scored early on Sandler’s 35-yard field goal and O’Connor’s 2-yard run for a 10-7 first-quarter lead.
Southport scored in the first period on a 59-yard pass play from sophomore QB Ed Schott to 6-6 senior tight end Serg Slaughter and retook the lead 14-10 in the third quarter on a short scoring pass from Schott to Blake Evans.
After his coaching debut was spoiled, Southport’s Brandon Winters said, “I’ve seen outcomes like that but usually we were on the other side of it. We made too many mistakes and they took advantage of it. When it came down to it, they made plays.”
Roncalli racked up 310 yards of offense: O’Connor completed 11-of-15 passes for 205 yards; Kenny Gillum gained 59 yards rushing; and Evans caught seven passes for 79 yards.
Southport gained 383 yards: Schott was 14-of-23 in the air for 231 yards, and Mappes ran for 135 yards on 21 carries.