The door for redemption appeared wide open for Duncanville (Texas)
, the nation's No. 5 football team. But a rugged defense and an even tougher sophomore running back from Southlake Carroll (Southlake)
slammed it shut Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
No, it wasn't the nation's top-rated junior quarterback Quinn Ewers
who led the charge in Carroll's stunning 34-27 6A Division 1 semifinal win over the Panthers. Instead, swift and determined 5-foot-11, 190-pound Owen Allen
made all the big plays, rushing 33 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns as the Dragons (12-1) thwarted Duncanville's chance to win a state title after losing in the finals the last two years to North Shore (Houston).
About an hour earlier, second-ranked North Shore was upset by No. 10 Westlake (Austin) 24-21 to seemingly dangle the elusive title in range of the high-powered Panthers (10-2), who eliminated Southlake Carroll from the playoffs the previous two seasons by scores of 49-35 and 51-7.
Instead, it's the Dragons who will go after their ninth state crown, but first since 2011.
Carroll got there without its head coach Riley Dodge, who missed Saturday's game due to COVID-19 concerns. He'll now face his father Todd Dodge, the coach at Westlake, in the championship game
Besides Allen and Ewers, he can also thank the team's much maligned defense, which held Duncanville scoreless the second half. The Panthers came in averaging 47 points per game and had little trouble going up and down the field the first half. But something clicked on that side of the ball the second half.
Down 27-21 at halftime, Carroll outscored Duncanville 13-0 the rest of the way sandwiching a 37-yard touchdown run by Allen between field goals by Joe McFadden
of 31 and 26 yards. The second boot made it 34-27 with 8:34 left.
Duncanville methodically drove to the Carrol 22, but the Dragons' defense held after 13 plays. With three timeouts and more than three minutes to play, the Panthers still had high hopes. But on a third-and-11 play, Allen broke their backs with an 11-yard run, breaking one last tackle to get the extra push.
Duncanville had one last hope on a 3rd-and-2, but again, Allen just powered his way for two yards. Ewers kneeled three straight times to complete the game-ending 15-play drive and Carroll's gritty victory.
The Ohio State-bound Ewers, ranked the No. 1 junior quarterback in the country, looked mortal against one of the nation's best defenses. A week after throwing for 450 yards and six touchdowns in a 59-35 victory
over Trinity (Euless), he completed 11 of 25 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown on Saturday. He also ran for a key score, and his team got the victory.
Allen's performance wasn't out of left field. He's been outstanding all season and now has 2,023 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns totals. But breaking so many tackles and making so many big plays against Duncanville's defense caught many off guard. Particularly, the Panthers.
Impressive Duncanville quarterback Grayson James
, who threw for 471 yards and three touchdowns
in a semifinal win over DeSoto, managed just 39 yards in the second half after a superb first two quarters. He finished 19 of 30 for 185 yards.
There were six lead changes during a very entertaining first half.
Duncanville's only turnover of the half, a fumble, led to a 32-yard Southlake Carroll scoring drive, capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by Owens, making it 7-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter. It was Allen's 25th TD run of the season.
The Panthers drove right down the field, but the drive stalled in the red zone, and a short field goal try missed, setting the tone for the team's kicking woes for the half.
The Dragons returned the turnover favor as Allen fumbled and impressive linebacker Jadarius Thursby
recovered at the Carroll 13. On the next play, James sprinted into the end zone, making it 7-6 after the point-after miss. Malachi Medlock
(19 carries, 139 yards, two touchdowns) ripped off a 47-yard run to set up his first touchdown on a 1-yard giving Duncanville a 13-7 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. That set up a game of touchdown tag.
Ewers contained through the air most of the half, evaded a rush and scampered into the end zone on a 13-yard run, giving Carroll back the lead 14-13 with 8:31 left in the half.
James countered with an 18-yard TD pass to tight end
, but more extra point problems. A bad snap led to a failed conversion making it 19-14. Landon Samson
then made the play of the half, outleaping Thursby for a 50-50 pass, then outrunning the secondary for a 65-yard catch-and-run, giving Southlake Carroll a 21-19 lead with 3:38 left in the half.
But Duncanville had the last answer of the quarter, driving 50 yards in six plays, capped with Medlock's second touchdown, a 3-yard run with 48 seconds left in the half. James sprinted home the two-point conversion, giving Duncanville a 27-21 halftime lead.
James was pinpoint accurate, completing 13 of 16 at halftime with 146 yards, while Ewers was just 5-for-14 for 103 yards. Everything turned after that and now the Dragons will get their head coach back next week.