Pierce Ripanti supplied the power and Darnell Savage supplied the speed as Caravel completed an undefeated season with a 39-29 victory over Hodgson in the DIAA Division II football championship game Friday night at Alumni Stadium.
The Buccaneers (13-0) won their fourth state title with an unstoppable running game, piling up 447 yards on 57 carries. Ripanti bulled his way for 249 yards and two touchdowns, while Savage sprinted to 158 yards and three touchdowns. Hodgson finished its season at 11-2.
The Buccaneers showed their strength on their opening possession, marching 67 yards in 10 plays – all on the ground. Aaron Hudson ripped off a 24-yard gain, Savage broke loose for 16 yards and Ripanti had an 11-yard run on the drive. Ripanti capped it with a 4-yard run to make it 6-0 with 4:06 left in the first quarter.
Hodgson’s first threat came early in the second quarter, as the Silver Eagles drove from their own 21 to the Caravel 14. A 34-yard pass from Ray Jones to Bilal Nichols and a 13-yard scramble by Jones got Hodgson in scoring range, but Caravel’s Emmanuel Simms intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep the Silver Eagles off the board.
Savage found a seam on a misdirection play and sprinted 68 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 12-0 with 5:59 remaining in the first half.
Caravel took possession at its own 11 with 4:02 left in the half and appeared content to run out the clock. But a personal-foul penalty moved the Buccaneers to their own 47 in the final minute, and Groomes connected with Savage for a 30-yard pass to the Hodgson 23 with 21 seconds to go. Two plays later, Groomes found Hudson over the middle for a diving, 28-yard touchdown catch and a 19-0 lead with one second left in the half.
The Buccaneers kept it rolling in the second half, covering 70 yards in eight plays on their second possession. The highlight was a 27-yard pass from Groomes to George Murray, and Savage cruised around the right end for a 9-yard score to push the margin to 25-0.
But there were plenty of points still to come. Hodgson finally got on the board 13 seconds later when Jeff May returned a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown. The Buccaneers answered almost as quickly, as Ripanti ripped off a 48-yard gain off the left tackle and Savage sprinted around the right end again for another 9-yard TD to make it 31-7 on the last play of the third quarter.
It took the Silver Eagles only two plays to find the end zone again, as May hauled in a 59-yard scoring strike from Jones. But the Caravel machine kept humming right along, as the Buccaneers marched 80 yards in eight plays. Ripanti carried four times for 50 yards on the drive and covered the final 9 yards to push his team up 39-15 with 7:04 to go.
Then Hodgson made it interesting with two quick scores. Jones ran twice for 23 yards and completed three straight passes for 65 yards, with the final one going to Ruben Saunders for a 25-yard touchdown.
Three plays later, the Silver Eagles’ Dakota Atley picked up a Caravel fumble and returned it 66 yards to the 5. Jones punched it in on the next play to pull the Silver Eagles within 39-29 with 4:33 to play.
But Caravel salted it away with another long drive, from their own 20 to the Hodgson 18. The Silver Eagles intercepted a pass in the end zone with 51 seconds left but couldn’t mount a final comeback.