For maybe the first time in a state championship game, Bishop Carroll knew it was overmatched entering Saturday’s Class 5A championship against Mill Valley.
But no matter what adversity came or how many injuries piled up, this Carroll team still believed there was a way to still do the unbelievable and win back-to-back titles.
“Giving up was never an option for us,” Carroll quarterback Jake Allen said. “When we walked into that locker room the first day of the season, we said we wanted to win a state championship. We can’t just say, ‘That’s it.’ We set a goal and there was no going back. We had to keep fighting until we couldn’t fight anymore.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
True to its word, Carroll ended its season scrapping but couldn’t deliver the upset as Mill Valley’s talent overwhelmed Carroll in a 35-14 victory at Smith Stadium in Pittsburg.
Coach Alan Schuckman thought the game was a good representation of Carroll’s season, which began with a loss to Northwest and ended in a third trip to the state title game in the past four seasons.
“It kind of epitomized our whole season,” Schuckman said. “This team, at times, has been down and out, but they just keep fighting back. That’s what I love about this team this year. They just kept fighting back.”
Mill Valley quarterback Logan Koch’s dual-threat ability was too much for Carroll’s to defend, at least in the first five minutes when the senior torched Carroll for three touchdowns to jump out to a 21-0 lead.
But when Allen found Ethan Lopez on a simple pass to the flats and a Mill Valley defender fell, Carroll suddenly had momentum after a 55-yard touchdown play.
Even more when it scored on another trick play, as Adam Theis took a handoff, saw Zach Wright’s defender had left him to stop the run and floated a pass that Wright took in for a 23-yard touchdown to trim Mill Valley’s lead to 28-14 at halftime.
Carroll opened the second half with more tricks, as it successfully recovered an on-side kick and nearly scored again on a fake field goal play where Carroll ran nine players off the field with the play clock winding down to create confusion and snapped the ball with a receiver hugging the sideline wide open for a 36-yard touchdown.
But a penalty for an illegal shift wiped the touchdown off the scoreboard.
“We’ve had all of that stuff in all year, we just haven’t had to use it,” Schuckman said. “We felt like, on paper, we were overmatched and we’d have to take some chances and do some things to keep them off-balance.”
That’s because of a dominant defensive front, led by Anthony Brown and Cole Morris, that held Carroll, a team averaging over 250 rushing yards in its last 11 games, to a season-low 11 rushing yards on 26 carries; Allen threw 48 times for 315 yards.
Carroll’s defense held Mill Valley to less than 100 yards in the second half, which created opportunity after opportunity for the offense to jump back in the game. But Carroll came up empty on six straight possessions with a chance to cut into the 28-14 lead with five of those ending in Mill Valley territory.
“That’s the worst part about it,” Carroll senior lineman Noah Johnson said. “We make one or two more plays and we’re right back into it and it’s a completely different ball game.
“That’s on the offense. That’s on us. That’s on me. We should have picked it up for our defense.”
After finding a way to overcome the odds all season, Carroll couldn’t do the same against a Mill Valley team that it knew was a deserving champion.
“I wouldn’t pick any other team than this one to play in this game,” Carroll senior Brian Karst said. “We fought through just about everything this year and these are my brothers out here. Eagle Pride never dies. We’ll never forget that.”
MV – Koch 19 run (Hicks kick)
MV – Krull 26 pass from Koch (Hicks kick)
MV – Koch 13 run (Hicks kick)
C – E. Lopez 55 pass from Allen (D. Lopez kick)
MV – Koch 2 run (Hicks kick)
C – Wright 23 pass from Theis (D. Lopez kick)
MV – Jegen 22 run (Hicks kick)
Rushing – Carroll, Theis 12-21, Gottschalk 1-(-2), Allen 1-(-8); Mill Valley, Jegen 22-84, Koch 19-79, Valencia 2-28, Krull 1-7.
Passing – Carroll, Allen 25-48-315-1; Mill Valley, Koch 10-19-200-1.
Receiving – Carroll, E. Lopez 6-110, Woodard 8-67, Wright 3-53, Theis 5-50, Seyfert 2-39, Nichols 1-10, Miller 1-9; Mill Valley, Jegen 4-87, Krull 4-85, Garrison 1-15, Hartman 1-13.