Heartbreaking finish as Carmel falls short
That's all that separated the Carmel Corsairs from their first win of the football season on Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Corsairs, it wasn't meant to be in a 16-15 loss to the visiting Marian Central Hurricanes in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
Carmel had its back against the wall following a long, 8-play, four-minute drive by the Hurricanes that ended in a field goal, giving Marian Central a 10-9 lead with just 1:58 left in the game.
Freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, who had struggled up to that point, saved his best for crunch time. After a 9-yard completion to move the chains, Kaliakmanis scrambled out of the pocket, buying himself enough time to hit wide receiver Damone Williams-Gray across the middle for a 30-yard gain. Gray ran all the way to the 19, where he was forced out of bounds.
Safety/running back Zaire Barnes took a handoff on the very next play into the end zone, giving Carmel a 15-10 lead with 53 seconds remaining. The Marian Central sideline was stunned as the Carmel's homecoming crowd roared with excitement following the late touchdown. It was almost as if they could almost taste the team's first victory in the air.
But as they would soon find out, 53 seconds can be an eternity.
Marian Central started pretty deep in its own territory on the last drive of the game. The Hurricanes used two quarterbacks in the game, primarily running back Gavin Scott, who wore down the Corsairs defense as the Hurricanes no huddle offense wore down the Carmel front seven. However, it was their second quarterback that made the biggest play of the game.
Carmel's defense needed one stop, but they weren't set on the first play of the drive and quarterback AJ Golembiewski found his wideout all alone for a 74-yard game-winning touchdown pass. After the elation of what they thought was a game-winning touchdown just a few seconds earlier, the Corsairs were facing a defeat.
"What can you say after that?" said Carmel coach Andy Bitto. "After a comeback, touchdown and almost another touchdown. It was a good football game to watch. I was so proud of our kids because they didn't quit."
Kaliakmanis finished the game going 11 of 19 for 158 yards and an interception. Barnes was the Corsairs' leading rusher, finishing the game with 67 yards and a touchdown.
There's not much Bitto could say to his console his team following that game, but he still believes in his team despite the tough season they've had.
"We've had a rough year and I just told them to keep their heads up. Any time we've asked them to play hard and play with character, they've done that and I said, 'Don't let that fade despite the disappointments,' " said Bitto. "A lot of times the way sports is, you have to deal with disappointment and that's why it's good for young people. You gotta figure out how to overcome it and get better."
The Corsairs (0-7) will go on the road to take on St. Patrick next weekend.