For the first time in four years, St. Joseph will not end the season as state champions.
Carroll Academy avenged last year’s state semi-final loss at the hands of the Fighting Irish with a 15-6 win, advancing to the title game.
The stage was set.
In the middle of a global pandemic, there wasn’t much social distancing taking place at the Rebels’ home stadium.
There was standing room only to see the rematch between St. Joe and the Rebels.
Last season’s matchup went down to the wire as the Fighting Irish edged Carroll Academy, 20-18, after rallying from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
Much like the previous meeting, there wasn’t much scoring in Friday’s contest.
The first points of the game came from the Rebels’ defense.
With St. Joseph deep inside its own territory, Carroll Academy forced a fumble.
Maddox Carpenter scooped up the ball and scored on a 15-yard return to give the home team an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion was successful with 1:59 on the clock in the opening frame.
The Fighting Irish answered with 2:09 remaining before halftime when C.J. Moore connected with Tyler Beckworth deep inside Rebels’ territory.
Beckworth would not be denied, breaking several tackles and bulldozing his way into the endzone for a 15-yard TD reception.
St. Joseph head coach John Baker opted to go for two instead of kicking the extra point, but the Rebels stood tall and took an 8-6 lead into halftime.
After the break, St. Joseph would find the endzone first when Mekhi Norris found Kaleb Lockett for a TD connection.
However, a penalty would strip the point from the Fighting Irish and the drive later stalled.
After driving deep inside St. Joseph territory, Carroll Academy cracked the goal line when Brennan Blaylock called his own number to sneak in the end zone from the 1-yard line.
After tacking on the extra point, the Rebels took a 15-6 lead.
The Fighting Irish seemingly had an answer when Mekhi Norris hit Jarrian King in stride for a 45-yard score but it too was called back after officials called a holding penalty on John Baker’s squad.
“We definitely had our chances in the game. Penalties and turnovers will kill you every time,” said Baker.
With one last shot to mount a comeback, starting quarterback Mekhi Norris began rallying the troops and was putting together a nice drive.
The St. Joseph fans were on their feet and momentum had started to switch.
But Maddox Carpenter had other plans in mind when he intercepted Norris’ pass, igniting the home crowd and essentially sealing the deal for undefeated Rebels.
From there, Carroll Academy used the running game to chew up time, handing St. Joseph seniors their first ever playoff loss, 15-6.
“We were on the other side of that last year so I know what their kids are feeling right now,” said Carroll Academy head coach Bo Milton.
After seeing three touchdowns called back, Baker was quick to point out how much home-field advantage plays a role in postseason games.
“Hats off to them. They are a good football team. I think we have a better football team but we didn’t show it tonight,” he said.
Carroll Academy will face Greenville Christian in the state championship next week.