PITTSBURG — Bishop Carroll claimed the Class 5A state championship by taking down St. Thomas Aquinas 38-28 on Saturday inside Carnie Smith Stadium.
Trailing by 17 at the end of the third quarter, the Saints got back in the ballgame with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Will Swanson to Tristan Davis in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
St. Thomas Aquinas forced a three-and-out following the touchdown to get the ball back, but came up short on a fourth down, giving the ball back to the Golden Eagles who went on to seal the win with a 3-yard touchdown run by Braden Howell.
“These kids have just shown great heart all season long,” Bishop Carroll head coach Dusty Trail said. “We’ve played a lot of teams who have probably been more athletic than us, but these kids have shown week in and week out that nobody has more heart than they do. They just kept proving it each week. We knew this was going to be the toughest challenge of them all, but they came out and did it again. They’re amazing young men.”
The Saints drew first blood on the opening possession of the contest, scoring in under a minute on a 13-yard touchdown run by Andrew Hicks, but a missed extra point kept the lead at six.
A touchdown for the Golden Eagles seven minutes later gave them a one-point advantage, scoring on 41-yard touchdown pass from Howell to Thomas Helten and a successful extra point by Rodney Steven.
St. Thomas Aquinas made up for the early miscue later in the first quarter, as Hicks connected with Will Swanson on a 14-yard touchdown pass and Cameron Jackson ran into the end zone to complete the 2-point conversion in the final minute of the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles went on to take the control of the contest by posting 24 unanswered points on the strength of three of touchdowns and a field goal.
A one-yard touchdown run by Howell followed by a 20-yard field goal by Steven in the second quarter gave the Golden Eagles a 17-14 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.
Bishop Carroll kept the momentum going in the second half and extended the lead to 31-14 in the third quarter, as Howell connected with Joe Holthusen on two touchdown passes — from nine and six yards out respectively.
The Saints got back into the game by cutting the deficit to 31-21 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Swanson to Tristan Davis.
A three-and-out forced by the Saints gave the ball back to them with nine minutes remaining in regulation.
The Saints lined up to go for it on 4th-and-14 at the Bishop Carroll 47 with the clock working against them in a two-possession ballgame, but a flag on the offense marked a turnover on downs.
Bishop Carroll added an insurance touchdown with two minutes left in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Howell, pushing the lead to 38-21.
Joseph O’Leary broke loose for an 83-yard touchdown return on the kickoff to bring the deficit back to 10, but the Saints couldn’t get the ball back on the onside-kick attempt.
Bishop Carroll drained the remaining one minute and 59 seconds in the final possession by running the football before taking a knee to earn the win.
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.