DAYTON — A broken play put together the finishing touch on a triumphant comeback for Carroll in its first game of the season.
Trailing by two in the final minute of the game, Ryan Chapman found Luke Herrmann for a wide open 40-yard touchdown pass to complete a 15-point fourth quarter and give the Patriots a 25-19 win against Ponitz Career Technology Center on Thursday at Welcome Stadium.
With no timeouts remaining and facing third-and-10 at Ponitz’s 40, Chapman looked to quickly unload the ball but was forced to go on the run by the Panthers’ pass rush. As he neared the left sideline, Chapman threw a line drive across his body to Herrmann, who had crossed the field from the right slot, which the tall tight end snagged behind the defense and allowed him to walk in uncontested for the final 15 yards to give Carroll the lead.
“We called one of our more basic down the field passes just doing a few verticals,” Carroll head coach Cody Byrd said. “Trying to see if we can wiggle somebody open. It was man coverage and the line did a good job in pursuit, our quarterback did a great job outside the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield.”
Chapman ran in a two-point conversion on a bootleg-type run to extend the lead to six.
Herrmann noted his catch was the type you dream of making to win a game.
“I saw the coverage and I felt like I knew it could be open,” he said. “I saw Ryan run out and I was wide open, he threw the ball and I just made the catch.”
Carroll dug itself into an early hole after allowing early field goal and touchdown drives to fall behind 9-0 early in the second quarter.
The Patriots’ offense struggled to move the ball in producing fewer than 50 total yards in the first half. It was enough to keep Carroll in striking range and get a brief lead after a field goal by Sammy Deep before Ponitz answered in the final minute to take a 12-10 halftime lead.
“We knew that we had to be patient,” Byrd said. “Ponitz game plan was essentially to trust their athletes and put them on our athletes and they trusted them. We know that we can execute schemes, get our athletes in space even when they’re feeling covered.”
In the third quarter, Ponitz grew its lead to 19-10 and stopped a long Carroll drive which ended with a missed field goal to preserve its lead.
After the Patriots’ defense got its first three-and-out stop to open the fourth, Carroll on its next drive converted a fourth down in the red zone before Chapman ran in a three-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 19-17.
Carroll’s Noah Mangold got an interception on the ensuing drive, but Carroll couldn’t get to midfield before punting.
A defensive taunting penalty with less than three minutes left nearly cost Carroll as it attempted to get the ball back, but it was able to do so after making several tackles for loss and using all of its timeouts to get the ball at its own 48 with 1:13 remaining to set up the winning drive.
Byrd said he loved the way his team kept encouraging one another despite trailing for the majority of the game, and had two takeaways he wants to teach to his team.
“I love how they continue to fight for each other. That’s number one,” he said. “Number two, we can’t make it hard on ourselves by those personal fouls. Got to play smart, physical football between the whistles and not give the officials the ability to make the job harder on us. That was our fault and the officials did a great job.”
Carroll will travel to Tecumseh on August 26 for its next game.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.