The The Falcons (6-2) defeated Carlsbad High School (4-4) in a 31-24 victory on Oct. 20.
The Carlsbad offense started its opening drive slowly. After two short runs, the Falcons defense looked ready to hold the Lancers to a “three and out.” Facing their first big third down, the Lancers converted on a short pass to Joe Fontenot (11), who followed his blocks and ran for a devastating 70-yard touchdown.
Trailing early, the Falcons relied on both Sully O’Brien (12) and Mac Bingham (11) to jump start the running game. Rumbling up the field, the offense began to gain momentum. However, a significant sack on quarterback Jason Heine (11) resulted in 20-yard loss and a third and long for the Falcons. TPHS again looked to its strong running game, as O’Brien managed to pick up a first down to keep the drive alive.
A healthy number of running plays kept the momentum flowing for the Falcons, as Heine picked up 15 yards on a QB run. As the Falcons slowly advanced to the Lancer 30-yard line, the Carlsbad defense stepped up and shut down the Falcon offense, forcing a fourth down. The Falcons settled for a field goal, as Carlsbad retained a 7-3 lead with 3:16 left in the first quarter.
The Lancers offense picked up right where it left off, completing a couple of big pass plays that landed them in Falcon territory. The Falcon defense was caught completely off-guard by a wildcat play by Carlsbad, which resulted in yet another passing touchdown giving the Lancers a 14-3 lead at the end of the quarter. Determined to cut into the lead, the Falcons turned again to O’Brien. TPHS plowed past the Lancer defense, which soon found itself pinned in its own redzone. A short QB sneak by Heine secured the first touchdown of the game for TPHS.
The Falcon defense took the field, as two failed running plays and a Louis Bickett (12) sack led to a three and out possession for the Lancers. The Falcons special teams made an important play as the Carlsbad punt was blocked and TPHS recovered it on the Lancer 5-yard line. A short touchdown run by Bingham saw the Falcons get their first lead of the game with five minutes left in the second quarter. With the same intensity as the previous drive, the Falcon defense made first downs hard to come by. After completing just one pass for a first down, Carlsbad soon found itself lining up to punt. As the Falcons started their drive, Bingham broke a couple of tackles and thrust the Falcons into Lancer territory. As the clock continued to tick toward halftime, Heine dropped back in the pocket and lofted a high arching pass toward Peter Nelson (12). Both Nelson and the Lancer defender got their hands on the ball, but in midair, Nelson wrestled the ball away and proceeded to run the ball in for a touchdown. The Falcons headed into the locker room at the half leading 24-14.
“It was just a streak route; he threw it,” Nelson said. “He threw it a little behind me, went over the guy, caught it, scored. It was a huge momentum booster, especially right before half, it gave us a nice 10-point lead going into halftime.”.
To start off the second half, the Falcons immediately returned to Bingham, who gained five yards for TPHS. O’Brien attempted a run soon after, but was unsuccessful. Two minutes into the quarter, TPHS fumbled on a big run play and Carlsbad took over on their 25-yard line.
Carlsbad tried to get its own running game going, but gained insignificant yardage, bringing up a fourth down before an illegal formation penalty on the Falcons allowed the Lancers to continue their drive.
TPHS linebacker Bickett sacked a Carlsbad quarterback for two yards, moving the Lancers back to the 12-yard line. Halfway through the quarter, the Falcon defense forced a fourth down and a Carlsbad field goal cut the score to 24-17 with the Falcons hanging onto the lead. Luke Mikolajewski’s (11) good return allowed the Falcons the start at the 34-yard line but it was stopped short of any gain.
Shocking the crowd, Heine threw a major 50-yard pass to Nelson, putting the Falcons eight yards short of the endzone. Bingham chewed up the last few yards, extending the Falcons lead to 31-17. The Falcons finished the quarter on a big sack by Parker Williams (12). Williams just returned from a knee injury.
“I’m really glad to be back with my team and playing again after sitting out for so long,” Williams said.
O’Brien was tackled at the 50-yard line soon after the start of the fourth quarter, and several players made attempts to make a run play, but were unsuccessful. With three minutes remaining, Carlsbad gained possession of the ball, but Fontenot dropped a big pass. The Lancers then gained 10 yards after the Falcons missed tackles.
In what could have been a huge play, a Carlsbad player dived to intercept a throw, but the ball passed through his hands with less than two minutes left on the clock.
The Lancers gained possession of the ball and ran for a touchdown but it was too little too late as the game ended 31-24.
“We have an opportunity to do something special,” varsity head coach Ron Gladnick said. “We win the next two, we’re Avocado League champs again. No one in modern times has won this league two years in a row, and we have a chance to do that.”
TPHS will play Mission Hills High School at home next Friday, Oct. 27