It appeared Hollywood might have scripted Arlington Catholic's 20-14 win yesterday over Austin Prep to clinch its third straight Catholic Central title.
There was offensive ineptitude against a powerhouse defense that left Arlington Catholic with a 14-0 first-half deficit. And there was the breakthrough early in the third quarter that gave AC life in a 14-7 game. There was the punt return for a touchdown to electrify the crowd and bring the score to 14-13, and then there was the long run that set up the short, go-ahead touchdown with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
Finally, there was the goal-line stand from an Arlington Catholic defense that buckled down after allowing 140 first-half rushing yards, as AC stuffed four Austin Prep attempts from inside the 5-yard line to seal a hard-fought victory.
"Our defense - we're physical, we've got some injuries, we've had ups and downs, and we're a second-half team. We have stunk in the first half of every single game this year and played great in the second half. It's amazing to me," said Arlington Catholic coach Serge Clivio. "But the defense allowed almost nothing until [a 33-yard run by AP's Ray Acciavatti with under a minute to go that set up first-and-goal at the 5], and then to come up big after that, what can you say."
Austin Prep hadn't given up more than 13 points in a game all season, and was allowing 3.8 points per game, but Arlington Catholic put up 20 in the second half to clinch a playoff berth against the representative of the Northeastern Small Conference.
Austin Prep got two touchdown runs in the first quarter from Pat Delaney, then looked to its defense, which had been the stingiest in EMass.
But late in the third quarter, quarterback Corey Spencer (48 passing yards in the first half, 156 in the second) got Arlington Catholic on the board with a 3-yard keeper. The AC defense then forced a three-and-out on Austin Prep's ensuing possession. Ricky Douglass took the punt, followed a couple of blocks in the middle, then got a key block on the left sideline that allowed him to dash the rest of the way to complete the 37-yard return. Travis Stanley missed the extra-point attempt, though, and Arlington Catholic faced a 14-13 deficit as the fourth quarter began.
Austin Prep's defense stifled AC in the fourth quarter until three minutes remained, when Arlington Catholic took over on the Prep 31 after a punt. Two plays later, Spencer faked a pass and handed to Charlie Bates, who ran the ball to the 1-yard line before being pushed out of bounds. Bates pounded it up the middle on the next play to finish the job and give Arlington Catholic the lead for good.
"For a second I thought I was caught in the backfield, and then all of a sudden I'm all the way down at the 1, and they let me take it in. It was crazy," Bates said. "I thought we were done."