The goal was to start at a fast pace, but the solution was to outlast.
Carroll spent three quarters in a hole Friday against Concordia, but a fourth-quarter surge led to a 24-14 win for the Chargers as they improved to 6-2 ahead of their final regular-season matchup.
“We got a good speech at halftime. Obviously we weren’t clicking, and the team kind of realized that, looked to the next person, looked them in the eyes and said, ‘I’m doing this for you, you’re my brother.’ The brotherhood that we have here really showed in the fourth quarter,” Carroll quarterback Jeff Becker said after scoring two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of Friday’s game.
That came after the Chargers’ offense was only able to manage a field goal in the first quarter and their first touchdown with just over a minute left in the first half.
Carroll’s first possession of the game resulted in a forced punt, and the woes continued as Concordia running back Kam Johnson broke away for a 5-yard rushing touchdown after appearing to be bottled up in the backfield.
Carroll’s field goal came on the resulting drive — a 30-yard attempt by Sebastian Lopez to close out first-quarter scoring.
Concordia continued a drive into the second quarter, capitalizing on a holding call on Carroll with a 28-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Brandon Davis to Scottie Vanlandingham.
Penalties and a sack on Becker stifled another Carroll drive, but the Chargers were able to recollect with a tackle for a loss of yards by Liam Ottenweller on fourth and 1 to force a Concordia turnover.
Running back Hunter Mertz took over the ensuing drive, running the ball on five straight plays to pick up two first downs and score the team’s first touchdown of the night from the goal line. However, Carroll failed to convert on a two-point attempt, giving the Cadets a 14-9 advantage going into halftime.
Carroll’s Tucker Steely looked to swing the momentum in the Chargers’ favor with an interception on Concordia’s first play of the second half to set the team up at the Cadets’ 24-yard line. Once again, the Chargers were forced to punt as a result of a string of penalties.
Carroll took its first lead of the game with 10:44 left to play, thanks to a catch by receiver Cooper Rudolph, who proceeded to dive into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.
“It feels good just to finally have him get a touchdown,” Becker said of Rudolph. “He’s been stepping up on the varsity side as a sophomore, and for him to get a touchdown in this type of a game is awesome to see.”
This time, Becker followed up with a pass to senior Mason Englert in the end zone for a successful two-point try to put Carroll up 17-14.
The Chargers forced another turnover on downs on Concordia’s resulting possession, and Becker took advantage with a 26-yard rushing touchdown on a three-play drive to extend Carroll’s lead to 10 with 8:30 left in the game.
Concordia’s last two possessions of the game saw big defensive plays from Carroll, including an interception by Jorge Valdes and a sack by Aaron Jacquay to put the game to rest.
“Our offense is very high tempo and that’s just how we play,” Becker said of the slow start to Friday’s game and the fourth-quarter rebound. “If we’re not playing our game and our coaches tell us we have to get back on track, we’ve got to get the tempo going, that’s where we really get dangerous.”
Running back Luke Carmody covered 84 yards on 14 carries for Carroll, and Rudolph led the receiver corps with 43 in the air, catching all three of his passes.
The Chargers face Wayne (1-7) on the road Friday to close out the regular season. Then they’ll have an away meeting with Warsaw (6-2) in the first round of sectional play Oct. 30.