Jalen Suggs doesn't know where it comes from. Natural ability, with an added scoop of football instincts, he supposes. How else to explain his ability to so frequently make something good out of the potentially bad?
The junior quarterback rushed for 77 yards, often when plays broke down, and passed for 160 to lift the SMB Wolfpack to a 23-15 victory over Waseca in the Class 4A semifinals.
Repeatedly forced to run against an aggressive Waseca pass rush, Suggs' speed and elusiveness frustrated the Bluejays.
"He's unbelievable," SMB coach Collin Quinn said. "He got a first down on one fourth-down play, I don't know how he possibly did that."
Said Suggs: "I just try to play on instincts. I've been playing this game since I was 4 years old."
After a tightly contested first half that ended with SMB leading 10-7, Waseca made a statement. The Bluejays (10-3) took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in seven plays, capped by a 25-yard touchdown reception by Malik Willingham on a third-and-13 play.
The Wolfpack regained the lead 16-15 on a 2-yard run by Siegel Howard, leading to the most crucial stretch of the game.
Waseca blocked a punt on SMB's next drive, taking over at the Wolfpack 20. On the next play, SMB linebacker Kaden Johnson stormed in and hit Waseca quarterback Hunter Rodriguez as he was throwing. The ball squirted into the hands of SMB lineman Andrew Mollison, ending Waseca's threat.
"We thought we had a play that was going to hit, but we didn't get the backside blocked and there was a turnover," Waseca coach Brad Wendland said. "That was a key moment in the game."
On the next play, Suggs threw a long pass that was snagged by Johnson for a 53-yard gain. Howard, who finished with 123 yards rushing, sprinted into the end zone from 15 yards out on the next play, giving SMB (12-0) an eight-point lead.
SMB, a fourth-year cooperative of players from St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake, will play next week in its first Prep Bowl.