Hadyen Ellinger hadn’t taken an offensive snap all night.
The Bishop Dwenger senior running back/linebacker was a little banged up and planned to stick to his defensive duties Friday night at Shields Field. But on fourth and two from the Carroll two-yard line with 1:42 left in a tie game, he knew it was his time.
“I told coach, 'I’m good to go, just trust me,' ” Ellinger said. “He (Jason Garrett) called time out and wasn’t going to give me the ball and I said, ‘Coach you gotta trust me.’ Credit to my line, I don’t even know how else to explain those guys; they fought so hard.”
Ellinger squeaked his way through the Chargers defense and that proved to be the go-ahead touchdown for Dwenger in a 10-3 win over Carroll.
“He’s a senior, and I’m a believer when a senior looks to you and says, ‘Give me the ball,’ and everybody else is saying to give him the ball, I say let them call the play,” Garrett said. “If they don’t get in, they don't get in, but he got in and we’ll use it as a way to continue to galvanize our guys, and we know now we can lean on them pretty heavy when we need it.”
It was a defensive battle from the start. The Saints got down to the Chargers’ 4-yard line late in the first quarter, but penalties pushed them back and the possession came up empty.
Griffin Eifert intercepted Carroll quarterback Jeff Becker with 2:42 left in the first half. That set up a Joe Bulanda 39-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to put the Saints up 3-0.
“When we got in the locker room he said, ‘That was a 39-yarder? I thought it was 29 yards,’” Garrett said of his conversation with Bulanda. “We thought we won the Super Bowl when we hit it.”
Becker, who went 13 of 30 for 188 yards, used his legs to convert a fourth down midway through the third quarter, which ultimately set up Trevor Horton for a 41-yard field goal to tie the game at 3.
Dwenger, the reigning Class 4A state champions, knows it couldn’t afford to lose another game in the SAC. Garrett said this was one of those games they will look back on as a season-defining moment.
“I was saying just a moment ago, God willing we’re going to look back in nine weeks and say this was one of those defining moments because our seniors wanted it," Garrett said.
The Saints were also playing for more than just an SAC win. Earlier this week, Bishop Dwenger welcomed home members from Honor Flight No. 33, and invited members of the flight to the game.They wore camouflage jerseys during the game and a Black Hawk helicopter and service members delivered the game ball to the stadium moments before kick off.
“That helicopter was something special," Ellinger said. "Wearing these jerseys is very special to me and to all these guys. We had some vets in the locker room today and seeing that helicopter fly over was a beautiful sight. We love our county and play football for them."