Jalen Sutton-Christian admits he considered calling it quits and leaving the Imhotep Charter football team.
After helping lead the Panthers to last year’s PIAA Class 4A state final, he lost his starting quarterback job to fellow senior and North Penn transfer Steve DePaul in training camp.
“It was kind of hard to accept,” the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder said. “I wanted to quit. But something told me to stay on the team and keep fighting. I like a challenge.”
Sutton-Christian shined as Imhotep cruised past District 11’s Bethlehem Catholic, 41-6, in Friday night’s penalty-ridden state semifinal at Northeast’s Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium.
The early-season backup threw for a touchdown and ran for another as the District 12 and Public League champs defeated the Golden Hawks in the semis for the third straight season.
“I think the battle for the starting spot put some fire into Jalen,” Panthers second-year coach Nick Lincoln said. “It helped him make the player he is right now.”
Imhotep (11-2) will take on Erie’s Cathedral Prep (12-3) for top honors at 7 p.m. Thursday at HersheyPark Stadium.
Cathedral Prep, of District 10, hammered District 3’s Bishop McDevitt, 48-7, in Friday night’s other semifinal at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona.
Sutton-Christian, who played youth football for the Northwest Raiders, completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards and two scores. He rushed seven times for 68 yards.
Early in the second quarter, multipurpose standout and West Virginia recruit Tykee Smith wowed the cold spectators with a 93-yard TD run that put the Panthers in front, 14-0.
Sutton-Christian, who regained his starting job a few games into the season, directed an eight-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by Yusuf Terry’s 2-yard TD run. Anthony Gordon’s 35-yard extra-point boot made it 21-0 at intermission.
Sutton-Christian’s perfectly placed toss to the Baylor-bound Terry resulted in a 30-yard, third-quarter score that put Bethlehem Catholic in a 28-6 hole.
“He just tells me to throw the ball up there and that he’ll go up and get it, and that’s exactly what he does,” Sutton-Christian said.
Sutton-Christian and Smith added rushing scores of 2 and 31 yards, respectively, to bring on the mercy rule in the closing minutes.
Bethlehem Catholic 0 0 6 0 - 6
Imhotep Charter 6 15 13 7 - 41
IC: Saint McLeod 2 run (run failed)
IC: Tykee Smith 93 run (Yusuf Terry pass from Jalen Sutton-Christian)
IC: Terry 2 run (Anthony Gordon kick)
BC: Savion Banks 34 pass from Zamar Brake (run failed)
IC: Terry 30 pass from Sutton-Christian (Gordon kick)
IC: Sutton-Christian 2 run (kick blocked)
IC: T. Smith 31 run (Gordon kick)