St. Joseph Catholic School junior Kaleb Lockett said he and his teammate Dillon Johnson have a special connection, and on Friday night Lockett and Johnson proved it.
Lockett, a junior, caught the game winning touchdown on a perfectly thrown strike from Johnson with 3:48 seconds left in the game to lift the Fighting Irish to a 20-18 victory in the semifinals of the MAIS Class 3A State Semifinals. Lockett caught the pass right before he tiptoed his feet inside the left side pylon.
The 12-0 Irish can now win their third straight state championship when they face longtime rival Indianola Academy in the state championship game next Friday at Jackson Academy. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
“This victory means so much to us,” Johnson said. “I knew Kaleb would catch it. We have a connection like no other.”
Said Lockett, “I wasn’t thinking about anything when the ball was in the air. It all came down to fundamentals. Dillon and I have worked so hard together over the years that it all came together at the right time.”
St. Joseph’s C.J. Moore all but sealed the victory when he sacked the Carroll Academy quarterback on fourth down with 2:45 seconds left in the game and the Rebels without any timeouts.
Carroll Academy (10-3) took the opening possession of the game into the endzone and would lead the entire game before Lockett’s touchdown. The Rebels would score again on their next possession, but the Irish, led by defenders like Brittain Virden, Fred Townsend, Jakory Williams and Elvis Scott, would hunker down on defense and only allow one more Rebel score the rest of the game.
“We won the game because of our heart and determination,” St. Joseph Coach John Baker said. “In the end, I think we wanted it more.”
St. Joe would score its first points of the game when Johnson recovered a fumble inside the Carroll Academy 10-yard line and then leaped into the endzone for the score with 4:29 until halftime.
But, the Rebels answered right back and methodically drove down the field aided by long rushes by Maddox Carpenter and John Marc O’Cain. Carroll Academy finished this drive with no time left in the half when Taylor caught his second touchdown pass of the game from 34 yards away to give the Rebels an 18-8 lead at halftime.
St. Joseph quarterback Mekhi Norris, who played about half the game behind center, connected with Jay Robinson on a 16-yard touchdown pass on the Fighting Irish’s first offensive play of the third quarter to cut the Carroll Academy lead to 18-14.
“It is always tough unless you win the last game,” Carroll Academy head coach Bo Milton said. “The hardest part is saying goodbye to the seven seniors on my team because those are some really good young men.
“We played good defense the whole way,” Coach Milton said. “We did a good job slowing down their two big players, and I am really proud of the job we did.”