The 41-yard touchdown strike from quarterback A.J. Barge to brother Josh capped a dominating second quarter as Carrollton eliminated Burke County, 49-15, in the Class AAA semifinals Friday night at Grisham Stadium.
"They kept putting the pressure on us," Burke County coach Eric Parker said. "We were unsure about ourselves sometimes."
The Bears, who reached the semifinals for the first time since 1997, fell two wins short of their first state title, as 28 unanswered points in the second quarter broke open the game.
Earlier, despite falling behind 7-0 in the opening quarter, Burke County (11-3) took advantage of a Trojan fumble deep in Carrollton territory when quarterback Corey Mayton hit Montres Kitchens on a screen pass on fourth-and-16 for 30 yards. Devin Beverly ran it in two plays later.
But Carrollton (14-0) used a physical run game and a drawn offside penalty to take the lead before the deep pass started hurting the Bears. Parker said they tried to sell out against the run and added his side never got any momentum as Carrollton didn't attempt a punt all game.
On the first big pass play, Dallas Dickey threw to a wide open Telvin Brown, who broke free on a wheel route on fourth down for a 34-yard score.
Burke County moved the ball on its next two drives, but quarterback Donquell Green fumbled after powering forward on a run and then Mayton tossed an interception that was caught at the 10. Mayton had 124 yards of offense in the opening half to lead the Bears' offense and the junior finished with 219 yards.
On the possession before the interception, Carrollton got another long Brown reception -- this time for 50 yards -- and increased the lead to 21 when he juked by a second defender to score. Brown finished with 147 offensive yards -- with 98 of those yards coming on first-half receptions.
"(A.J. Barge) has a strong arm," Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague said. "Telvin Brown had the huge catch -- everything worked."
With the win, Carrollton advanced to the final for the first time since 1998, its most recent state championship. The Trojans have also dedicated this season to the Barge brothers' father, Anthony, an assistant coach who was killed in a motorcycle accident in July, and now are one victory away from winning it all.
Burke County tried to rally down 28 to start the third, and on its first possession of the second half, Mayton found Kitchens for a score. But after the Trojans ground out an answering touchdown, there was only 2:42 left in the third quarter with the Bears' deficit cut to only 27.
The Region 3-AAA champions had the ball on Carrollton's side of the field two more times, but an unlucky interception and a failed fourth-down run meant Burke County came up empty.
When the clock hit zero, the Burke County band played one more song for the season as players, coaches and fans all raised their helmets, hats or hands in unison one final time.
"We worked so hard ... It's over with," senior Antonio Warren said about the playoff run.