Limited to one first down in the first half and trailing 16-0 early in the third quarter, the DeSales High School football team went to its star and pulled out a huge playoff victory.
Junior running back Dylan Byrd scored three touchdowns and finished with 213 yards of offense as the Colts rallied for a 21-16 victory at Christian Academy on Friday in a second-round Class 2-A playoff game.
“It’s amazing what he’s done,” said DeSales coach Harold Davis, noting that Byrd now has 29 touchdowns this season. “He’s obviously very special. You can’t coach the things he does.”
DeSales (8-4) snapped a three-game losing streak to CAL (8-4) — including an overtime loss in the second round last year — and will play at Glasgow (10-2) in a state quarterfinal next week. The Scotties beat Bardstown 42-33 in another second-round game Friday.
CAL outgained DeSales 391 yards to 240 and controlled the first 27 minutes of the contest before Byrd got going.
“I know we can play better than that,” CAL coach Stefan LeFors said. “I know we had the opportunity to play at home throughout the playoffs, and that part hurts.”
The Centurions led 9-0 at halftime but ended two other first-half drives inside the DeSales 20-yard line without points.
“We ran nine offensive plays and were down 9-0, so we should be pretty happy,” Davis said of the Colts’ mood at halftime. “(The Centurions) probably should have scored four times, but we held them. All of that was positive.”
Nick Payne busted loose for a 40-yard touchdown run that made it 16-0 at the 9:05 mark of the third quarter, but it was all DeSales from there.
Nathan Roush hit Byrd for a 14-yard TD pass that pulled the Colts within 16-7 with 4:06 left in the third quarter. CAL fumbled on its next possession, and Byrd scooted 43 yards on the next play to make it 16-14 with 2:00 left.
The Colts took a 21-16 lead on Roush’s 70-yard TD pass to Byrd with 10:17 left in the game. Byrd fumbled near the end zone and the ball appeared to hit the pylon, which would have given it back to the Centurions on a touchback. Byrd recovered the ball in the end zone, and officials ruled it a touchdown.
LeFors said the ball “definitely hit the pylon,” but Byrd said it didn’t. Davis said he couldn’t see the play, but “if that’s the case, then we caught a break.”
CAL had a punt and two turnovers on its next three possessions before nearly pulling out a miracle in the final seconds.
Nathan Christmas completed a 60-yard Hail Mary pass to Sam Stone to put the ball at the DeSales 19 with five seconds left. DeSales then was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving CAL a final play from the 9 with no time on the clock.
Christmas threw into the end zone, where DeSales’ James Davenport knocked down the pass to end the game.
When it was over, Byrd showed off a cut above his left eye suffered on the first play from scrimmage. It didn’t seem to bother him the rest of the game, as he finished with 18 carries for 97 yards and four receptions for 116 yards.
“The whole time during halftime I had my head down because I couldn’t go out like that,” Byrd said. “I came back and redeemed myself.”
CAL – Nathan Bader 32 FG; CAL – Jonathan Sparrow 17 pass from Nathan Christmas (run failed); CAL – Nick Payne 40 run (Bader kick); D – Dylan Byrd 14 pass from Nathan Roush (Hunter Carroll kick); D – Byrd 43 run (Carroll kick); D – Byrd 70 pass from Roush (Carroll kick).