The third part of the Weiner Bowl was one for the ages.
Zachary rallied from an eight-point deficit with a pair of touchdowns in the final six-plus minutes of play - including the game-winning score with 19 seconds left - for a pulsating 29-22 victory over Catholic High in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
“Players make things happen,” Zachary coach Neil Weiner said. “I kind of joked if it came down to coaching we might lose and if it’s up the players, we got them. Our kids made some plays right there. They really did.”
Quarterback Mason Pace directed Zachary’s comeback with a 20-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion to Quinton Jones that tied the game at 22-all with 6:33 to go.
Pace, who completed eight of his last 10 passes for 108 yards in what was a driving rain at times, directed the Broncos 67 yards in 11 plays with Ron Pennington scoring the game-winner from 3 yards out with 19 seconds left.
“They’ve got a quality program, and I’m very proud of Neil and what he’s done over there,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said of his son, whose team won for the second straight year over the Bears. “I’m really proud of how hard we played. I wish I had done a better job.”
Catholic appeared to have momentum with a 22-14 lead when Zachary was forced to punt with less than eight minutes remaining.
However, the Bears had 12 men on the field during the return, a penalty which enabled the Broncos to keep possession at their 42-yard line.
Four plays later, Pace, who was 21 of 37 for 224 yards, found Jones for a touchdown and two-point conversion that tied a game that featured five lead changes.
Dillon Beard (five catches, 57 yards) and David Deloach (five catches, 40 yards) topped Zachary’s receiving corps, while Pennington, who had a 96-yard second-quarter touchdown, led the Broncos with 122 yards on 17 carries.
Zachary outgained Catholic 463-334.
Said Neil Weiner: “That penalty was huge. Through the course of the game there were plays that could have gone either way, and obviously at that moment that made a big difference. That really kept us going.”
Said Dale Weiner: “I blew the game for us by thinking we were short a man on the fourth down, and that gave them new life. That’s all on me.”
Khalil Thomas’ 3-yard scoring run late in the third quarter provided Catholic with a 16-14 edge. Thomas paced a 250-yard rushing attack with 128 yards on 21 attempts.
Catholic increased its margin to 22-14 with 9:24 to play on a 6-yard keeper up the middle from quarterback Ben Braymer. The junior, who made his first career start, finished with 71 yards on 12 carries and completed 7 of 18 passes for 84 yards.
Zachary capped a back-and-forth opening half with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Pace to Aaron Simon for a 14-10 halftime lead.
Curtis Crenshaw recovered a fumbled punt at Catholic’s 30-yard line with just less than two minutes remaining, and the Broncos needed five plays to cash in with 44 seconds showing when Pace connected with Simon on a short slant-in on third-and-goal.
The two teams traded the lead four times in the opening half with Catholic leading 3-0 on Guy Hymel’s 42-yard field goal in the first quarter and 10-7 on Braymer’s 1-yard sneak with 3:45 to left before halftime.
Catholic tried to capitalize on its momentum when Kim Nam Le recovered an onside kick at Zachary’s 48-yard line, but the Broncos allowed 2 yards and forced a punt.
Zachary appeared headed for a halftime deficit when Vessell punted with 2:39 left into the height of a first-half rain and Crenshaw came up with the loose ball.
Pace, with two timeouts at his disposal, ignited the scoring drive with a 17-yard completion to Deloach to the Bears’ 10 followed two carries from Ladarrius Vessell for 7 yards that set the stage for Pace’s scoring toss.
“I thought all of our guys did a great job, and obviously they hung in there and didn’t get discouraged and came back and made plays when they had to,” Dale Weiner said. “My hat’s off to them. They played a great game.”