The spotlight never appears to bother Bishop Carroll quarterback Blake Bell, who has played with the poise of a veteran since his first start in 2008. Even he admitted, though, to feeling pressure Friday night when the Eagles played Kapaun Mount Carmel in a game televised nationally by ESPNU.
The hype, the crowd of around 5,000 fans, the national TV audience, a huge rivalry, the scrutiny on Bell, who is one of the country’s top-ranked quarterbacks — it was a lot to handle.
“This was crazy,” Bell said. “I felt the pressure, but I tried to let it all go.”
Bell led Carroll to a 36-34 down-to-the wire victory. He threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was a very good game,” Kapaun coach Dan Adelhardt said quietly as he walked off the field. “My dad said, ‘That’s a heck of a game. It’s too bad you lost.’æ”
The victory also gave Carroll (6-0, 6-0 City League) the league title, its third straight.
“This is awesome,” Bell said. “I mean, I’m just glad we got the win. You couldn’t ask for a better game, though. Cross-town rivalries, playing a game like this on (ESPNU), it’s awesome.”
The highlights were plentiful:
Kapaun junior quarterback Keaton Lewis threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while also finishing with 132 rushing yards, including a 97-yard touchdown run that put Kapaun up 21-7 with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter.
Carroll junior Tyler Nance had 187 receiving yards, including a 72-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for Carroll’s first score.
Kapaun’s Jonathan Truman scored on a 38-yard interception return in the first quarter to put Kapaun up 14-0 in the first quarter. He also had a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Carroll’s Thomas Woodard scored on a 23-yard interception return late in the first half, cutting Kapaun’s lead to 21-14.
It was a back-and-forth game, even down to the final six minutes.
Trailing 28-21 following a 14-play, 41-yard scoring drive by Kapaun, Carroll answered.
The Eagles went on a 10-play drive that Bell capped with a one-yard touchdown run with 5:43 to go.
Carroll kicker Matt Straka made the extra point, tying the score. But it was waved off because coach Alan Schuckman called a timeout before the kick.
On the re-kick, the snap was high and Nance, the holder, immediately took off running to his right, stretching the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion and the 29-28 lead.
“That’s all athletic ability there,” Bell said.
It was Carroll’s first lead, but it wasn’t a planned play.
“The (ESPNU) guy said, ‘Did you call that?’æ” Schuckman said. “I said, ‘I wish I was that smart.’ ”
“I knew we had to make the extra point to stay tied with them,” Nance said. “I knew if it was a bad snap, I’d have to take it. . . . I was kind of scared there for a second, but I took it in.”
Kapaun turned it over on downs on its next possession, and Carroll scored five plays later on a 2-yard run by Bell to go up 36-28 with 2:18 remaining.
Kapaun wasn’t finished, though.
After consecutive penalties on a false start and an illegal shift, Lewis hit Michael Reynolds on a screen over the middle for a 63-yard score with 1:07 to go.
But on the two-point attempt, the Carroll defense swarmed Lewis.
“We went to a play that we made a big gain for (earlier),” Adelhardt said. “They strung him out a little bit.”
Schuckman added: “We talk about having a short memory and after you give up a 63-yard screen pass, you’ve got to kind of re-focus and stop them. I think our defense thought we had won the game.æ.æ.æ. It was a quarterback draw and our kids rallied to the football and made plays.”