HUTCHINSON — Bishop Carroll opened the second half of its Class 5A semifinal at Hutchinson just like it needed to, forcing Hutchinson to punt after three plays on two straight series.
It was a statement that Carroll's defense needed to make against Hutchinson's high-powered running game. Especially after the Eagles fell behind by two touchdowns in the first half and gave up two runs of 60-plus yards.
But following both those defensive stops, Carroll made crucial turnovers, and the game started to unravel.
Hutchinson's Josh Smith rushed for 302 yards, and Hutch scored on three straight possessions in the second half as it defeated Carroll 42-21 at Gowans Stadium.
Hutchinson (12-0), which has won five consecutive titles — including four in Class 6A — will play Gardner-Edgerton in the 5A title game Nov. 28 at Emporia State.
"We knew the margin of error was very small," said Carroll coach Alan Schuckman, whose team finishes 11-1. "We knew that going in. Those two turnovers right at the beginning of the second half didn't help us.
"We came out defensively and made a big stop. We're feeling good, then we turn it over. We stop them again and then fumble the ball. It was hard to recover from that point forward."
It was a physical game between two well-coached, disciplined teams. There were only four penalties.
"Obviously that's a great football team that we played right there," Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling said"... I don't know what the score looks like, but that's a tough game. We had to fight for everything."
While Carroll trailed 21-7 at the half, its offense had moved the ball in the first half successfully through the air, with quarterback Blake Bell throwing for 113 yards.
"They were dropping deep on us," Bell said. "We started to get the run game going a little bit better, making plays, scrambling and finally we did start finding openings. It was a lot of inside routes coming across."
Bell found five receivers throughout the game, often over the middle. Danny Crippen finished with 114 receiving yards on 11 catches, while Blake Rollins had 13 catches for 91 yards.
Defensively, the Eagles had given up an 11-play, 89-yard drive on Hutch's first series of the game, and two big runs by Smith were the difference.
Smith put Hutchinson up 14-0 with a 72-yard run. And after Bell led Carroll on a 12-play scoring drive, capped by his 15-yard run, Smith answered two plays later with a 63-yard run.
"We just let one little mistake happen, and that leads to a big play," Carroll junior free safety Max Martinez said. "It was just missed assignments."
Carroll's second half turnovers were disheartening.
The first came when Wes Warren intercepted Bell, who came into the game with four interceptions all season. Bell was 31 of 40 passing for 248 yards and two touchdown runs.
Carroll's second turnover was a fumble on a Hutchinson punt. The Salthawks took over at the Carroll 25 and Smith scored eight plays later for the 28-7 lead.
Carroll hung around, scoring two straight touchdowns, but Hutchinson answered each time and never allowed Carroll to get within two touchdowns.
That Hutchinson is playing for yet another state title isn't surprising.
That Carroll advanced to the 5A semifinal game after returning three starters from the 2008 season, that was a different story.
And that's what Schuckman focused on after the game. He had talked to his team Thursday night, telling them he didn't know how the game would turn out, but they should play like champions.
"We were up against a bigger, more physical, faster team," Schuckman told his team. "But I wanted you to play like champions. By God, you did.
"... We came up a little short, but not because you didn't play like champions."
Bishop Carroll (11-1) 0 7 7 7 — 21 Hutchinson (12-0) 7 14 7 14 — 42
H—Dinwiddie 25 run (Thomas kick)
H—Smith 72 run (Thomas kick)
BC—Bell 15 run (Straka kick)
H—Smith 63 run (Thomas kick)
H—Smith 1 run (Thomas kick)
BC—Rollins 8 pass from Bell (Straka kick)
H—Smith 11 run (Thomas kick)
BC—Bell 1 run (Straka kick)
H—Smith 40 run (Thomas kick)
Rushing—Carroll, Bell 19-39, Rollins 2-22, Weber 1-4. Hutchinson, Smith 33-302, Dinwiddie 7-55, Bell 8-17, Heeney 1-(-9).
Passing—Carroll, Bell 31-40-248-1. Hutchinson, Bell 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—Carroll, Crippen 11-114, Rollins 13-91, Gilmour 2-18, Weber 3-18, Nance 2-7.