The buzzword around Kapaun Mount Carmel’s football team this week was fortitude.
The Crusaders knew they’d need it to rebound from a one-sided loss to rival Bishop Carroll that knocked them from the top of the Class 5A rankings.
On Friday, they needed it when momentum disappeared against West in the teams’ District 6 opener.
Kapaun trailed in the fourth quarter after West scored on consecutive drives. But the Crusaders answered quickly, as Ethan Harp’s 1-yard plunge and Matthew Wells’ extra point with 5:05 remaining gave them a 14-13 victory at Cessna Stadium.
Sophomore Alexander Norris set up the game-winning points with a 52-yard run two plays after West’s Trevon Williams put the Pioneers up 13-7 on a 54-yard run with 7:23 to play. Harp, a senior, tied the score four plays later, and Wells booted the extra point for the second lead change of the final quarter.
“I just got behind my blockers and made a cut,” Norris said of Kapaun’s longest offensive play of the game. “We needed it.”
Kapaun (6-1), No. 5 in 5A, took the lead on Norris’ 1-yard run late in the first quarter and maintained its 7-0 advantage into the fourth. But West (4-3) was sparked by a fourth-down stop near midfield late in the third quarter.
The Pioneers drove 49 yards in 11 plays, and tied the score 22 seconds into the final quarter on Tyrell Saunders’ 3-yard run.
The touchdown march followed West’s defense stopping Norris for a yard on fourth and 3.
“That play had been working all night,” Kapaun coach Dan Adelhardt said. “In hindsight, I’d like to do it differently. In foresight, we’d go down and be up two scores.”
Instead, West kept applying the pressure. Safety Marcus Malcolm intercepted a pass by Kapaun’s Brock Monty with 8:08 remaining. The Pioneers took less than a minute to score, as Mitchell, who gained 115 yards on 16 carries, broke free from a Kapaun tackler and raced into the end zone to give West its first lead.
But kicker Devin Daignault’s conversion attempt sailed left, setting the stage for the Crusaders.
Norris’ long run came on the second play of the game-winning drive. A slant pass from Monty to Jack McGrath moved the ball to West’s 4, and Harp ran the ball twice to get into the end zone.
Norris finished with 96 yards on 17 carries. Harp added 79 yards on 14 attempts as Kapaun ran for 207 yards.
“We just didn’t stop them,” West coach Weston Schartz said. “We had a six-point lead, and you’ve got to stop them to win big games. We didn’t stop them.”
Kapaun got its 11th consecutive victory over West dating back to the 2001 season. That initial victory was a 14-13 overtime decision, and Friday’s game was the closest since.
“We had to show guts,” Adelhardt said. “We knew West was going to be a great opponent and we’d have to work our tail off to get a (win). It feels good to play hard, get a break, beat a quality opponent and be 1-0 in district.”
K—Norris 1 run (Wells kick)
W—Saunders 3 run (Daignault kick)
W—Mitchell 54 run (kick failed)
K—Harp 1 run (Wells kick)