Indeed, both teams came in averaging nearly 40 points per game while yielding about 10. Neither offense could get anything going with any consistency in the first half, which ended tied at 7-7. John Flor returned an interception for a touchdown on a tipped ball for Marist, while Blessed Trinity scored just before the half on a 26-yard pass from Jake Smith to JD Bertrand.
Marist (8-2, 5-1 in Region 7AAAA) made the game’s fatal mistake late in the third quarter when the War Eagles fumbled on the first play of their second drive of the half. Blessed Trinity (9-0, 5-0) took over at the Marist 35-yard line. But Marist’s defense stood tall and forced the Titans to settle for a 22-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 10-7 lead.
Marist took possession but was once again stymied by the Blessed Trinity defense after just four plays and one first down. But the War Eagles flipped the field when their punt pinned the Titan offense at its 18-yard line.
That’s when the Austin Burns, Jackson Filipowicz and the rest of the Titan offensive line decided it was time to knuckle up. McFarlin and his staff put the game on the shoulders of that line and senior running back/linebacker Steele Chambers.
In the game-deciding march, 15 of the 16 plays were power runs by Chambers. The only other play was key offside penalty on fourth-and-one at the Marist 24-yard line. And of those 15 runs, nearly half were power plays to the right, with Burns pulling from his left guard spot.
“I knew I just had to do my part for the team,” said Burns, who declined a request for the name of the play. “It’s the same play call, but I don’t think I’m allowed to give it out.”
What he, Filipowicz and Chambers did give out was punishment on the drive, which was an ode to old school, smash-mouth football.
“Our coaches prepared us, they pushed us hard all summer,” Filipowicz said. “We knew they had us ready for this.”
Still, Marist’s defense forced the Titans to turn the ball over on downs at the War Eagle 15-yard line when they stuffed Chambers on fourth-and-four. McFarlin said he and his staff had made the decision to keep the ball no matter what and go for every fourth down once they got deep in to Marist territory.
Marist took possession with a little over two minutes left in regulation. But with no time outs and an offense that does not throw the ball much, getting into field goal range proved to be too tall an order for the War Eagles. Titan defensive back Ryan Davis sealed the deal when he sniffed out a tight-end screen on fourth-and-10, and broke up the pass with a big hit.
“I just wanted to keep everything in front of me,” Davis said. “I saw it coming.”
Another thing that may be coming is another date with Marist in the state title game.