The building process at Summit Christian Academy was clearly evident, from the orange construction fence around the field to the freshman quarterback manning the offense.
Graduation took a heavy toll SCA, which is one year removed from a Class 2 quarterfinal appearance but started the season 0-3 under new head coach, Todd Berck.
Freshman Grayson Sprouse, the freshman starting quarterback, replaced Sam Huckabee, who played in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl last season.
Sprouse led Summit Christian to five straight wins entering a playoff showdown Oct. 27 against Holden, a game in which SCA came up short during a 14-3 home loss in the the Class 2, District 7 matchup.
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“We were just young, starting a brand new freshman quarterback,” Berck said. “You know, (the) kids kept working hard. We kept trying to tweak things, trying to get positions, and we started to get some confidence. I’m really proud of their effort. It didn’t end up tonight like we wanted to, but 6-5 after starting 0-3 is a good way to finish.”
Besides, teams often face growing pains during the building process.
Against Holden, they came in the form of missed or dropped passes and penalties.
“Two times we had a guy wide open and we just couldn’t get the ball complete,” Berck said, “and then we did drop some balls that would have sustained drives. We would get a big play and get a penalty. We just didn’t put it together. We had some chances to take momentum, and we just didn’t do it.”
Summit Christian took an early 3-0 lead after a 68-yard drive ended with a Josh McConnell field goal.
McConnell, a junior, rushed for 52 yards on 16 carries in the first half, but Holden shut him down in the second half and he gained only 11 more yards.
Meanwhile, McConnell’s counterpart, Holden running back Andrew Martin, rushed for 210 yards on 36 carries and scored the game’s only two touchdowns.
The first came on an 11-yard run late in the third quarter, which pushed Holden into the lead.
“They kept pounding him and pounding him,” Berck said of Martin. “We knew if they kept pounding him enough, he was going to get one. I’m really proud of our defense. I thought they played really well with the situations we were in. Twice, they had that short field and we kept them from the end zone.”
With 2 minutes, 26 seconds remaining, SCA mounted a potential go-ahead drive.
Sprouse connected with Christians Newsome on a fourth-and-10, keeping the drive alive, and hooked up with Newsome again to reach Holden territory, but the drive came to an abrupt end when Josh Laing forced a turnover.
He beat the blocking around the left side for a sack, stripping the ball from Sprouse in the process as Holden recovered.
Martin caught Summit Christian in a blitz on the next play, rumbling 59 yards for a back-breaking touchdown with 1:11 left.
Sprouse finished 9 of 27 passing for 129 yards, but it’s a few narrow misses that will haunt SCA.
McConnell had Newsome open deep on a double-pass, but the duo couldn’t connect.
With a chance to at least flip field position in the third quarter, Sprouse missed a wide-open Braeden Campbell down the right side.
McConnell shanked the ensuing punt, setting up Holden’s first scoring drive at the SCA 30-yard line.
“It just wasn’t our night,” Berck said. “We didn’t put it together when we needed to, so we’re going to learn from it and get these guys ready to go next year.”
After the rough start to the season, Summit Christian and Berck were glad to maintain the program’s winning tradition, short as it might be, left by former coach Dalton Vann, who led the 2016 team to an 11-2 record and a quarterfinal berth.
“We started five sophomores on both sides and a freshman quarterback,” Berck said. “The future’s bright here at SCA.”