Carroll's SAC title hopes are alive and its losing streak against Homestead is dead.
The Class 6A No. 9 Chargers turned away a Spartans comeback attempt in the final seconds and pulled out a nail-biting victory Friday, winning 17-10 behind a dominant performance from a defense that has often felt overlooked in recent years.
“I feel like we've been the best defense in the SAC for a long time,” said Carroll linebacker Justin Anderson, who had an interception that set up a Charger touchdown. “(Homestead) normally drops 30-plus (points). It's 10 on the scoreboard. I'm saying there's no defense better than us.”
The Chargers (6-1) have won six in a row and their victory allowed them to remain within striking distance of conference-leading Bishop Luers with two regular-season games left.
Coming into the game, Carroll had dropped six straight against the Spartans since 2016, including a playoff matchup, all by 17 points or more. That streak came to an end when Homestead quarterback Peyton Slaven, facing a fourth-and-5 at the Carroll 17 with 15 seconds left, tried to scramble and was forced out of bounds short of the marker.
“It was a surreal moment, there was nothing like it,” said Chargers linebacker Dylan Bennett, who had seven tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup. “When we got (Slaven) on that stop, we looked back at the line to see where he was at and it was like, 'Dang, man, we did it.'
“We lost to them (six times) in a row and this time we came back and showed them we know how to play the game.”
The Chargers got off to a fast start, jumping in front in the first quarter when quarterback Jeff Becker hit Jameson Coverstone on a quick out and Coverstone broke three tackles on his way to a 57-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, Anderson's interception and 25-yard return in Homestead territory set up Carroll in the red zone and Becker found running back Luke Carmody on a screen for a 9-yard score and a two-touchdown lead.
The Spartans got their offense going in the second quarter and twice drove inside the Carroll 10 – including once on an 86-yard catch-and-run for receiver Gage Sparrow – but the Charger defense stiffened and forced a pair of field goal attempts, only one of which was good.
The Spartans finally broke through in the fourth quarter when Slaven found Grady Swing on a fade for a 9-yard touchdown to bring the Spartans within seven.
Homestead started its final drive on its own 20 with 2:12 left and marched nearly the length of the field, but Carroll got the stop when it needed to.
“We just knew we were better, that's just plain and simple,” Bennett said. “We just came out here and competed. We're a great team, they're a great team.”