Carroll routs Salina South, earns spot in Class 5A final
Carroll routs Salina South, will play for Class 5A title
Face down on the giant yellow ‘C’ emblazoned in the middle of the field, Zach Befort wished he could stay forever.
The senior wanted to savor the feeling of Bishop Carroll’s 45-21 victory over Salina South on Friday night. It was the last time he and 37 other seniors would be on their home field before they head to Emporia next week to play Bishop Miege for the Class 5A championship.
“I love high school football so much,” Befort said. “It’s a feeling you’ll never have again. I almost wish I could flunk and come back.”
Carroll faced a strange amount of doubt against Salina South — a bigger, supposedly more physical team —for being the undefeated No. 1 team in the state.
It took only a half for Carroll (12-0) to establish its own brand of toughness.
“Nobody really respects us,” Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. “They downplay our league. They don’t think we’re a very physical football team. Every week we have to prove ourselves.”
What might it take to gain that respect?
“It’s going to take a state championship,” senior linebacker Blayne Martin said. “And believe me, we are going to do it big.”
What does get respect is a Carroll offense that averages over 52 points a game, which was clearly in the mind of Salina South coach Sam Sellers when he won the coin toss and elected to take the ball first.
The strategy worked, as the Cougars took a 7-0 lead, but the larger message was sent: Salina South didn’t believe it could stop Carroll.
“We knew we couldn’t get in a hole against those guys,” Sellers said. “Our offense isn’t built to come from behind. Their offense really is that special and they make it so tough to match them score for score.”
Sellers’ fears were confirmed in the first half, as Carroll’s offense started clicking. Salina South was forced out of its comfort zone when Carroll took a 24-14 lead.
Chasing points right before halftime, the Cougars ventured out in their inexperienced passing game. Quarterback Justin Stonebraker floated a pass and Carroll’s Anthony Troilo jumped the route for his sixth interception of the season.
It would prove to be the biggest momentum shift of the game, signifying a demoralizing end to a promising Salina South drive and cementing Carroll’s lead.
“I know their offense gets a lot of credit, and for good reason, but their defense might be just as good,” Sellers said.
South’s ball-control, methodical offense succumbed to the pressure mounted by Carroll’s quick-strike attack in the second half.
Three touchdowns in a span of seven minutes left South wondering what went wrong and Carroll’s sideline believing this is the team to break the winless streak in Schuckman’s other two title game appearances.
“I don’t think these kids are going to be denied,” Schuckman said. “I’m that confident in their ability.”
It’s hard to argue this isn’t Schuckman’s most talented team in his 17 years filled with winning.
But the players recognize there is an empty feeling in all those years of work, though Schuckman will likely never admit it.
But the players know. And they want nothing more than to fix it.
“I’ve seen the look on his face my sophomore year when we went to state and lost,” senior Anthony Troilo said. “It broke my heart. I want to win this state title for myself and my teammates, but I also want to do it for my head coach because I love him.”
SS—Busby 29 run (Weishaar kick)
BC—Denning 59 pass from Palmer (Ohm kick)
BC—Palmer 1 run (Ohm kick)
SS—Stonebraker 10 run (Weishaar kick)
BC—Hernandez 14 run (Ohm kick)
BC—Ohm 28 field goal
BC—Denning 22 pass from Palmer (Ohm kick)
BC—Smith 60 run (Ohm kick)
BC—Hernandez 7 run (Ohm kick)
SS—Jones 89 run (Weishaar kick)
Rushing—South, Jones 11-150, Busby 22-119, Stonebraker 14-72, Fox 1-2, Nachbar 1-1; Carroll, Smith 9-118, Palmer 14-54, Hernandez 11-53, Weber 3-(-2).
Passing—South, Stonebraker 3-8-2-29; Carroll, Palmer 14-17-1-212.
Receiving—South, Nachbar 3-29; Carroll, Denning 2-81, Harvey 2-33, Armstrong 2-30, Henning 1-14, Bongartz 1-12, Smith 1-8, Bullinger 1-8, Hernandez 3-7.