NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas —
On the long end of so many lopsided laughers this season, Carroll (Southlake)
needed to win one of those gritty 48-minute wars that establishes the character of a team.
Trinity (Euless) provided just that kind of test, and the Dragons emerged bruised but victorious, 16-7, in a Class 5A Division I regional playoff in front of a capacity crowd of 13,000 Saturday evening at Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletic Complex.
Carroll (12-1), No. 5 in MaxPreps Texas Top 25
advances to meet No. 1 DeSoto (13-0) for the Region I championship at 2 p.m. Saturday at SMU's Ford Stadium. DeSoto defeated Bowie (Arlington) 24-6
on Saturday afternoon.
"I'm just very grateful our team has a chance to play another week,'' said Carroll head coach Hal Wasson. "It is a gauntlet every week.''
Even if this wasn't one of the best teams for Trinity (10-3), ranked No. 11 in the state, the Trojans' toughness and tradition pointed to a competitive game.
"Those were two tradition-rich programs out there and we have a tremendous respect for Trinity,'' said Wasson. "We expected that kind of game. Some people might have questioned if we could play 48 minutes but I think we proved we are in good condition.''
Trinity led for most of the second quarter and it remained a one-score game until the final nine minutes when Drew Brown's
third field goal of the night, this one from 42 yards, made it 16-7.
As for tradition, the two schools in the last 10 seasons have accounted for eight state championships, five by Carroll and three by Trinity.
Even though the schools are separated by only 11 miles, Saturday's meeting was the first since the 2006 playoffs when both were coming off state championships in 2005. A crowd in excess of 46,000 was on hand at Texas Stadium to see that second-round match-up. Carroll won, 22-21.
In the run up to this Carroll-Trinity game, Wasson told his players he was confident that one them would have a special night.
That player turned out to be junior middle linebacker Steven Bergmark
. Whenever the Dragons needed a big play, No. 40 delivered. He blocked a field goal, intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and accounted for the only Carroll touchdown on his lone rushing attempt.
"I didn't know it would go that way,'' Bergmark said, "but I know how to make plays. We knew it would be physical because Trinity tries to run the ball right down your throat.''
Carroll's defense is often overlooked, even though it came in allowing an average of only 8.5 points per game. The reason: the Dragons' offense averages 540 yards and 54 points.
The Dragons 'D' tightened the screws on Trinity in the second half, allowing only 103 yards and most importantly no points.
"I thought our defense in the second half played lights out,'' Wasson said.
Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill
, a Texas A&M commit, didn't put up his usual eye-popping statistics (17-of-25 passing, 112 yards; 29 rushes for 130 yards) but he successfully converted nine third downs. That proved invaluable when Carroll strung long drives together and gradually wore down a very good Trinity defense.
"Trinity came out hard,'' said Hill, the son of former major league pitcher Ken Hill. "We executed the best we could. I haven't played in an atmosphere like this in a long time. As a football player, that's what you live for. ‘'
Maybe it was an omen that a holiday fireworks show a couple of miles from the stadium began seconds after Bergmark's 1-yard touchdown run gave Carroll a 10-7 lead 13 seconds before intermission.
Hill twice went to Keaton Duhon
for crucial third-down connections to set up the Bergmark run.
The Dragons began the second half with a 16-play, five-minute drive that resulted in the second of three field goals by Brown for a 13-7 lead.
Carroll held the ball for 13 plays in the fourth quarter to position Brown for final field goal.
Trinity owned a 7-3 lead for most of the second quarter, thanks to Matt Hawkins'
6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Reese
. It capped a 78-yard, 10-play drive, the key play Hawkins' 33-yard slant connection to Reese.
Bergmark blunted Trinity's scoring threat on the opening possession of the game with a headlong diving block of Jose Martinez' 27-yard field goal attempt.
Carroll responded with an 11-play drive of 76 yards that ended in a 25-yard field goal by Brown.
"Carroll is really good on defense and with Hill leading its offense, they are really solid,'' said Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver.
Hawkins, 6-of-7 for 75 yards in the first half, was under siege by the Dragons pass rush in the second half, hitting on just 3-of-11. And unlike his Carroll counterpart, scrambling lanes weren't available.
Wasson said he hadn't had a chance to look too closely at DeSoto, but is aware of the challenge that playing the Eagles presents.
Other Saturday Texas playoff games of note:Katy 55, La Porte 10:
The Tigers avenged last year's playoff defeat to La Porte in a big way, rolling up a 462-41 edge in total yards. Adam Taylor
, who missed last year's loss with an injury, led Katy with 216 yards and three touchdowns.DeSoto 24, Bowie (Arlington) 6:
Oregon commit Dontre Wilson
scored three touchdowns and rushed for 123 yards to lead DeSoto.Skyline (Dallas) 38, Spring Westfield (Houston) 33: Ellis Onic's
71-yard touchdown run with 3:26 remaining stood up as the game winner for Skyline.