The past two years were in the forefront of University High running back Mike Hollins’ mind Friday night.
The junior knew well the pain of falling a game short of making the trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and was determined to not let it happen a third straight year.
For the first time in his high school career, Hollins and the No. 2 Cubs (12-0) will compete for the Division II state championship after a 34-14 win against No. 3 St. Charles on Friday night.
And the Cubs did it the same way they would won every other game this season, letting Hollins batter and bruise his way to the end zone.
This time it was for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries, not to mention the 43-yard pass he completed on the game's first play.
“We played with a chip on our shoulders,” Hollins said. “We’re close with the seniors. I’m close with the seniors, and we wanted to send them out with a bang and give them a championship before they leave.
“We finally got over it, we overcame adversity. St. Charles Catholic is known for beating the higher seed and making it to the Dome. We played with a chip on our shoulder and executed tonight.”
Hollins said he felt anxious before the game, thinking about the past two losses in the semifinals.
U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said Hollins wasn’t the only one. He said the whole team had some early jitters to work through, ultimately leading to a scoreless game after one quarter.
Oonce the Cubs started rolling, there was no stopping them.
U-High finished with 316 yards of total offense against the Comets.
“I thought we were a little out of sync, a little jittery on offense,” Mahaffey said of the slow start. “I thought the defense was playing pretty well from the beginning, but offense with the rhythm, timing and execution was a little shaky there and (St. Charles) had something to do with that. They made plays.”
Unfortunately for the Comets (9-3), the defense couldn’t hold forever.
Hollins and the U-High run game eventually wore St. Charles down as the Comets offense struggled to stay on the field for most of the night.
St. Charles only had seven first downs, with the majority of those coming on the game's final drive, which resulted in its only sustained touchdown drive.
The other touchdown was a 1-yard run by quarterback Lloyd Nash after a bad snap on a U-High punt put the ball just outside at the goal line.
“Give (U-High) credit. They’re a good football team,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica. “We didn’t block them very well, and we didn’t hold the blocks. It wasn’t anything different they did. We just didn’t hold our blocks.”