While the bitter taste of losing remains, Carey head football coach Lane Kirkland has already set his sights on the future—and his team's next meeting with the Mackay Miners.
"We will not be losing that game," Kirkland avowed. "I have already reviewed their roster and they are losing some players. We are too, but we have a lot more coming back. The game will be at our place and we won't lose."
The initial seed of revenge was planted on September 18, 2009, the first time Carey (9-2) lost to the undefeated Miners (11-0) this season. But the Panthers were unable reap vengeance in their second matchup, the semi-finals of the eight-man 1A Division 2 state tournament at Holt Arena in Pocatello Friday. Starting on their own 20-yard-line, Mackay won the game 22-14 on the final drive of the game, but they were inadvertently aided by Carey, who committed three penalties—twice on third down, that kept the drive alive.
"Third-and-20, a late hit. Pass interference on third down, and another pass interference. That many penalties on a single drive—that was a lot. There were some no calls on that drive as well. We just didn't get any breaks at all," Kirkland said. "The kids played hard and did their very best on that final drive. They were just trying to make plays. They were just flying. But Mackay dug themselves out of a hole and we gave them the rope."
That drive was three quarters away, however, as Carey was the first team to find the endzone, From the Mackay 46-yard line, Carey executed a crisply efficient 5-play, 54-yard drive for paydirt.
Zarate gained 13 yards on a pitch and QB Caleb Cenarrusa connected with Dillon Simpson on a 24-yard pass play that gave Carey first down on the 9-yard line. Simpson rushed the ball to the one and Cenarrusa plunged in for the score. Zarate ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 advantage at the 8:08 mark.
Still leading 8-nil in the second, Carey attempted to convert fourth-and-one from their 26-yard line on an option play.
The toss was a little late and the ball bounced off the intended receiver into the empty backfield. Mackay nose guard Cody Morgan recovered and rumbled 74 yards to put the Miners on the scoreboard.
The score was 8-6 but Mackay would take the lead into the locker room after recovering a second Carey fumble. Quarterback Kole Krosch found Juston Warner on a 45-yard scoring strike and ran in the ensuing two-point conversion for a 14-8 advantage.
"We gave them some momentum, but I thought we had a solid first half," Kirkland said. "We mixed it up very well. I felt like we were doing just fine, considering the two turnovers. Our defense was holding them fine. I felt like we could do some things."
Idaho Sports announcer Jeff Duncan remarked, "Carey controlled the line of scrimmage and moved the ball up and down between the 20s pretty well, but only have one touchdown to show for it."
Overall, Carey rushed for 223 yards and picked up 107 yards passing to Mackay's 87 yards rushing and 143 passing. In a strange bit of synchronicity, both teams had the ball for 24 minutes and ran off 56 total plays.
Down six at halftime, Carey managed to equalize late in the fourth. Gaining possession after a 27-yard sack by Blair Peck and Zarate, the Panthers made their way to the endzone from Mackay's 35-yard line on 12 plays.
Highlights include Cenarrusa hitting Jacy Baird on a 17-yard pass, and Cenarrusa keeping the drive alive fourth-and-8 on a 12-yard run. Zarate took the handoff in from the one-yard line to tie the game with 3:29 on the clock. Carey succeeded on the pivotal 2-point try with Simpson converting on a direct snap, but the play was called back because of an offensive holding penalty. Krosch knocked down Carey's ensuing pass play. The score was 14-14 with 3:29 remaining.
"I felt if we held them and went to overtime, we would be okay," Kirkland said.
Both sides served Improbable and inspiring play up in the final minutes. Carey recorded two sacks that put the Miners in deep yardage situations, which they managed to wriggle out of.
"Certainly we had the upper hand on the final drive. We sacked them twice, but the penalties helped Mackay down the field," Kirkland remarked.
Zach Donnot was on the receiving end of an 8-yard TD toss from Krosch, and C.J.Barnhart caught the two-point try for a 22-14 lead. Carey had one more shot at the endzone, but the ball was picked off by Krosch to put the game away for the Miners with 21 seconds left.
"We went long and the ball didn't sail quite right," Kirkland said.
Despite the sting of losing, Kirkland lauded his players for a job well done.
""It was just a struggle between two deeply traditioned football teams and our boys played their best. Our line just kept working," he said. "The boys put their hearts and souls into this whole season and it has been a successful season. Any time you make it to the second round, you have done some good things to put yourself there. We set the highest of all possible goals this season and they should be proud of their efforts."
Kirkland's senior group of Dillon Simpson, Todd Peck, Brett Adamson, Trevor Peck, Brad Peck, Wacey Barg, Tyler Chavez and Gonzalo Zarate went 42-5 in four years with a pair of state championships to their credit.
"These seniors have had a lot of success," Kirkland said. "It has been a good decade for us. We have been winning championships and going as far as our teams will take us. We have been in the playoffs seven out of 10 years and won it in 2006 and 2008. The odd years just kill us."
2010, of course, is an even year and Kirkland said he knows the future is secure and more good times and fine football is right around the corner.
"When you lose, you always see tears from the starters and seniors. When you see tears from sophomores, which I did, you know you are going to be alright next season," Kirkland said.