Theodore Roosevelt battles Archbishop Carroll on Dec. 3 at Georgetown University. Archbishop Carroll rallied to defeat Theodore Roosevelt 35-27 in overtime leading to victory as the 2021 DCSAA Class AA Champions. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

Archbishop Carroll scored on its first possession of the overtime and then hold on downs to pull out a thrilling 35-27 win over Theodore Roosevelt in the DC State Athletic Association championship at Cooper Field on the campus of Georgetown University. As a result, the Lions (13-1) become the first team in school history to record 13 wins.

The Lions got on the board seconds into the game when Shon Reid returned a Rough Rider fumble for a 7-0 lead before fans could settle in their seats.

Carroll appeared to get the edge as they moved the ball with their vaunted running game. But the resilient Rough Riders, who got stronger on defense as the game progressed,  settled in and thwarted the Lions attack.

With the defense holding it down, Roosevelt (11-2) began to move the ball in its explosive offense, first with super sophomore quarterback Khalil Wilkins who got his team its first score to start the second quarter and then under senior starter Kerry Burns Jr., who engineered two short TD drives. It gave the Rough Riders a seemingly comfortable 21-7 lead at intermission.

Then the script flipped as the Lions, playing with a sense of urgency, got things started by capitalizing on a Roosevelt special teams mistake.

“The special teams came up big today,” said Carroll head coach Rob Harris, in his fourth season at the helm. “Those two plays got us jump-started. and helped us gain momentum.”

The two plays alluded to be a poor Roosevelt punt that gave Carroll the ball deep in Rough Riders territory and a later a fumble on the ensuing. In a span of a few minutes, the Lions had cut the deficit to 21-19 just before the start of the fourth quarter.

From there, Carroll went to its bread-and-butter running game and it appeared to wear down the undermanned Rough Riders defense, which had a number of players go down with injuries. And they did not help themselves as they we stymied by numerous penalties (13 for 115 yards) that stopped potential scoring drives after big plays.

The effective running of seniors Elijah Jordan Solomon and Reid began to control the line of scrimmage and the clock. With the momentum swing, Carroll finally capitalized to score on a drive that took only three plays, helping it regain the lead with still plenty of time on the clock. Solomon led his team with 159 yards rushing and Reid, who was named the game MVP, added 59 and two TDs. The Lions amassed 214 yards on the ground.

Roosevelt would have its chances on three different possessions but each time the Lions would come up with a stop, but often than not, it was the Rough Riders who would shoot themselves in the foot with penalties (13 for 115 yards).

“We have been leaning on people all season long,” said Coach Harris, referring to the team’s success all season with its run game. “We never went away from our running game and it paid off once we got some rhythm.”

Despite the Lions control of the line of scrimmage, the Rough Riders, who came in the game riding an 11-game win streak, refused to quit.

It appeared that the game was over when the Lions took over on downs and tried to run out the clock.  But Roosevelt came up with a big sack on a fourth and four at its own 23 yards with less than two minutes and no timeouts.

Enter a limping Wilkins, who was injured early in the second quarter. The poised signal caller calmly engineered an eight-play, 77-yard drive that used a little over a minute and a half off the clock to tie the game at 27 with an impending PAT attempt to take the lead.

During the celebration of the score, the Rough Riders were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and penalized 15 yards, thus making it a 35-yard attempt. They missed and that set up the extra stanza.

Confident in its defense with the second chance, Roosevelt won the coin toss and deferred. In overtime period, the ball is placed at the 10-yard line and each team gets a chance to score. It took the Lions only two plays on their chance to get in the end zone and they followed with a two-point conversion to take the lead.

On the Rough Riders possession, they were again hit with penalties and were unable to get in the end zone, giving the Lions the hard-fought win.

“I am just so happy for all the Carroll fans, the community, these players and the coaches,” said an emotional Harris as he received numerous hugs from the Carroll faithful. “I am an alum and this has been a long time coming.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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