Banged up, but not down, Lighthouse ends Carey's quest for three-peat
High school state football is officially in the books. Half of this weekend's championship games went down to the wire, including two overtime contests.
Only three schools have won the 1A DII state championship since 2006 and two of those teams played Saturday at Holt Arena, the Carey Panthers and Lighthouse Lions.
The game that featured two major story-lines; Carey was going for a third consecutive state title, which would mark the first time in school history and the Lions looked to cap off a perfect season with a ring.
Earlier this season Lighthouse handed Carey its lone loss of the regular season in a 36-0 rout. But when it comes to the playoffs, emotions are high and adrenaline takes over.
Junior quarterback Collin Holloway said, "just more intense, state championship game, different than the third week of football. Big dome, everyone is freaking out, just a big game."
The tables were turned last year, Carey entered the game undefeated, while Lighthouse's only loss was to the Panthers earlier in the year. Sophomore wide receiver/cornerback Clay Silva remembers that experience when he says, "I just think we didn't have the mindset quite yet."
Now fast forward to 2019 and the game does down to the wire again.
Tied at 28 late in the fourth, Carey went to its star, Carson Simpson, who racked up 300 yards last week, giving them a big first down. He would finish the game with 196 yards and 1 TD.
Four seconds left, Hunter Smith, rolled out, throwing up a beautiful Hail Mary, no good.
Teams went into overtime. Carey's ball, Simpson tries to break the plane, stopped short by Logan Stephens at the one, the lineman had eight tackles on the evening. Fourth down, last try and it's fumbled, Silva pounces on the ball.
Lighthouse needs a touchdown to win. Their ensuing drive, Brandon Houser runs it up the gut, stopped at the six. One play later, Holloway connects with Silva in stride.
Lions won 34-28 in overtime, holding the Panthers scoreless after halftime winning their third ever championship.
Holloway passed for 280 yards and 4 touchdowns, compared to just 1 interception.
"I told Collin I would be open, I would hit the Banana, which is the route, I said I would be open he said 'okay' and he threw it and I caught it," Silva exclaimed. Silva finished the game with 183 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
Despite the number of injured starters on the team, Coach Holloway never let that be an excuse for the team's performance.
"That's unacceptable as an excuse. Let's just "next guy up", figure it out. It probably comes from my military background. We don't have time to mess round, we have a mission in front of us, we have to get it done."
Even when Carey led 14-0, Lighthouse never let up and Coach Holloway credits that to the determination and conditioning habits of his players.
"We run what's called a Lion Run every Monday and we add laps to it every week. We ran 22 laps this week, that's four and a half miles, as a football team, Holloway explained. "It's a mental toughness; it hurts and it takes a long time, that kept building, we started at ten and ended at 22. The kids talked about that in the locker room just now."
Lighthouse will move up to the 1A DI ranks in 2020.