The game-winning 30-yard touchdown pass from Colton Howell to Scott Linnebur was recorded as happening with 7 minutes, 34 seconds left in Bishop Carroll’s 12-7 victory over Northwest on Friday night at Carroll.
It may have seemed like a momentum-grab after Carroll recovered a Northwest fumbled in the fourth quarter, but this exact play had been discussed by Linnebur and Howell, a junior quarterback who came on in relief in the second quarter, on a bench in Carroll’s locker room at halftime.
So when coach Alan Schuckman signaled for a shot at the end zone and Linnebur lined up opposite of press coverage, Howell’s fingers were tingling with anticipation before what would turn into the boldest — and best — throw of his career.
“We talked about what to do in that situation at halftime,” Linnebur said. “I knew that play was coming to me.”
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Howell received the snap, dropped back and fired into the right corner of the end zone where Linnebur took advantage of his defender’s turned head and snagged the go-ahead touchdown.
Schuckman said the play call goes back even further, to practice, where he drills his team on plays after “sudden changes.”
“After we make a sudden change, we’re going to be aggressive,” Schuckman said. “That’s when we want to come up with big plays and we did in that situation.”
It took all that to accomplish the following: extend Carroll’s winning streak to 18 games, improve the Eagles to 5-0 on the season, and stave off an upset-minded west-side rival for the second consecutive week.
“That just speaks to our perseverance and how we keep fighting,” Howell said, before cracking a grin. “I’ve never been so pumped in my life after I threw that ball.”
With so little separating the teams on a gusty night that somehow avoided rain, Northwest coach Steve Martin wasn’t so convinced of Carroll’s superiority.
He points out if Northwest hadn’t fumbled at its own 30 yard-line, it could have drained more of the time remaining or even scored a clinching touchdown.
“There’s a team over there that got beat,” Martin said looking in the direction of Carroll’s players celebrating with fans on the field. “We don’t feel like we got beat tonight.”
It was certainly an even match, down to the statistics.
The offenses were nearly identical: Carroll gained 235 yards and 12 first downs, Northwest accumulated 254 yards and 13 first downs.
Carroll’s offense entered averaging over 42 points per contest, yet left the first quarter with only one first down, and the first three quarters with a mere six points.
“We’re playing championship-level football on the defensive side of the ball right now,” Martin said. “We’ve got 11 guys that believe in our defense. When you can get kids to fight for each other, anything can happen out there.”
If its defense controlled the game, then Northwest had to feel destined to win after Jordan Bell broke loose and blocked Carroll’s punt attempt and Dylan Brazell recovered to take a 7-6 lead with 11:18 remaining in the game.
Northwest even forced a quick punt to give its offense a chance to limit Carroll’s opportunity. Instead, a fumble increased it and eventually led to the lone offensive touchdown in the game.
But a blunder by Carroll, a botched snap with 4:36 left, breathed new life into Northwest.
The Grizzlies quickly entered Carroll territory, but confusion on a fourth-down play cost them the possession. It was fourth-and-1, but the scoreboard read third down and Martin called a quick quarterback sneak accordingly, which was snuffed out by Carroll’s defensive line in the backfield for a loss.
“I thought it was third down,” Martin said. “If I would have known it was fourth-and-1, I would have ran a different play there. But that’s fine, this game isn’t going to define our season.”
Northwest received a final opportunity with 51 yards to go in 77 seconds, but the drive stalled at midfield and was ended when Carroll’s Patrick Dugan jarred the ball loose from Northwest quarterback Erin Gaither on fourth down.
It punctuated another impressive performance from Carroll’s defense, which has yet to allow more than 14 points this season.
“We know our offense is really young, but we’ve got to back them up,” said Carroll junior Mark Quaney, who finished with six pass deflections at cornerback. “We know the defense has to lead the team. It’s just that ‘Gang Green’ defense.”
After surviving in a 20-10 victory over West last week, Carroll did much of the same against Northwest: produce big plays when absolutely necessary.
“That’s what it’s about,” Schuckman said. “It’s about finding a way to win. Our kids hung in there and found ways to make plays when they needed to.”
BC—Dotson 25 FG
BC—Dotson 41 FG
NW—Brazell recovered blocked punt in end zone (Bryland kick)
BC—Linnebur 30 pass from Howell (run failed)
Rushing—Northwest, Thompson 10-79, Gaither 17-38, Sanders 10-28; Carroll, Howell 17-67, Goolsby 13-46, Weber 11-35, Skilling 4-24.
Passing—Northwest, Gaither 10-26-0-109, Sanders 0-1-0-0; Carroll, Howell 2-4-0-42, Skilling 5-10-0-21.
Receiving—Northwest, Williams 4-50, Beckner 2-28, Sanders 2-16, Brock 1-8, Cotman 1-7; Carroll, Linnebur 3-43, Davis 1-12, Leland 1-6, Goolsby 2-2.