VALPARAISO – The Saints pulled off one unbelievable fourth quarter touchdown in Friday's Class 5A semistate game at Valparaiso, but they couldn't score the second, falling 10-7 to the Vikings.
Down by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings (13-0) downed a punt at the Saints' 1-yard line. Bishop Dwenger (11-2) moved out of the end zone on a pass interference call, and then junior quarterback Brenden Lytle hit senior wide receiver Patrick Finley with a pass along the Bishop Dwenger sideline. Finley raced all the way down the sideline for an 83-yard touchdown that put the Saints just one score away from their second trip to the state title game in as many years.
The Saints' defense quickly squashed another Valparaiso drive, as they had every possession since the Vikings' first of the night. And once again, though the Saints started deep in their own territory (this time at the 5-yard line), Lytle got the passing game going for a first down. But around midfield, the Saints stalled out, and a pass attempt on fourth down fell incomplete with just over three minutes to go.
"You can't really put it into words – to have it all rush in there and realize that it's all," Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said. "Those seniors, they're defined by resiliency and they're defined by who they are as young men. At the end of the day, we'd love to compete for a state championship again, but they're winners in life."
As expected, the Vikings came out firing. Valparaiso ate up the first 6 minutes and 30 seconds of the game, much of it as junior slot back Tommy Burbee chipped away at the Bishop Dwenger defense, taking carry after carry. He completed the drive with a 1-yard carry to put the Vikings up 7-0.
Early on, Bishop Dwenger struggled to get its offense going, and the situation became more dire when the Vikings returned a punt to the Saints' 24-yard line. However, the Bishop Dwenger defense did not allow a first down and the Vikings had to settle for a 36-yard field goal with 4:50 to go in the second quarter.
"It's a heavy-weight bout, and we definitely took the first shot there, but we responded well," Garrett said. "It's resiliency, it's toughness, it's grit and making adjustments. We'd been in these moments before and we knew you're going to take some shots. We took a shot early, had some guys get injured and had to make adjustments, but we knew at halftime we had a shot."
Valparaiso, which had scored at least 29 points in every previous game and put up at least 40 in eight of their contests, would not score again, despite intercepting a Lytle pass with a minute to go in the first half and forcing a fumble on a Bishop Dwenger punt return early in the second half.
The Saints escaped that second mistake with a diving interception by John Michael Fabini less than three yards from the end zone, keeping the dream alive.
"We'll treasure all the joy we had and all the accomplishments; it's a tough one," Garrett said. "But it's a great team, and they're going to go down (to the state championship in Indianapolis) and bring home a victory for the North."