Only fans who truly enjoy defensive battles would have loved Friday’s East-Kapaun Mount Carmel football game.
That is, until Blue Aces sophomore running back Calil Burnett took a pitch and broke through the Crusaders defense for a 73-yard touchdown with 6:07 left in the game that proved to be the difference in East’s 14-7 victory at Cessna Stadium.
“At halftime, Coach (Brian Byers) told us we needed to step it up,” Burnett said. “They were telling me to go, and I just had to get it done. It was there, and I just had to take the opportunity.”
And he stepped up in an electrifying way, taking a pitch from senior quarterback T.J. Sparr, breaking through the defense and outrunning the Kapaun defenders to the end zone.
“We just weren’t playing well on offense,” Byers said. “In the second half, we got a little bit better at some things. Coach (Russ) Wells made an adjustment in a formation, and once we did that, we thought we could run a little bit, and we broke one.”
Take away Burnett’s run, and East (4-1, 4-1) managed just 68 yards total offense. Meanwhile, the Blue Aces defense was holding Kapaun (1-3, 1-3) to just 119 yards of offense.
East capitalized first, when senior Matt Bowman recovered a fumble on Kapaun’s first play from scrimmage at the Crusaders’ 26. Still, it took the Blue aces six plays to score when Sparr hooked up with senior receiver Garrett Gates for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
Kapaun sputtered after the opening fumble, with its best weapon being punter Josh Wondra, who forced East to start drives at the Blue Aces’ 22 and 20.
“We didn’t get into a rhythm, didn’t get anything going offensively,” Kapaun coach Dan Adelhardt said.
In the second quarter, Kapaun’s Tate Anderson returned an Al Orozco punt to the East 45. The Crusaders scored 11 plays later on Nick Heiland’s 2-yard run. East kept Heiland bottled up all night, holding him to just 21 yards on 15 carries.
“Our defense played great all game, it was a great team win, and these kids have a lot of character,” Byers said.
In the second half, Adelhardt replaced quarterback Coen Rasmussen with freshman Brock Monty after Rasmussen passed for just 26 yards in the first half. Monty didn’t fare much better, completing five of 12 for 37 yards.
But East also had its problems after halftime. The Blue Aces ran on every second-half play after passing for just 30 yards in the first half.
Even though Orozco struggled on his punts, Kapaun could not take advantage of the short kicks. Byers replaced Orozco with Guadalupe Fraire in the second half, and Fraire allowed Kapaun to start just once across midfield, on its scoring drive.
E – Gates 22 pass from Sparr (Orozco kick)
KMC – Heiland 2 run (Bombardier kick)
E – Burnett 73 run (Orozco kick)
RUSHING — East: Burnett 6-80, Thomas 12-23, Sparr 17-8, Orozco 1-3. Kapaun: Dempsey 6-42, Heiland 15-21, Dougherty 3-4, Monty 2-(-4), Rasmussen 6-(-7).
PASSING — East: Sparr 2-6-0-30. Kapaun: Rasmussen 3-7-0-26; Monty 5-12-0-37.
RECEIVING — East: Gates 2-30. Kapaun: Heiland 3-24, Hamilton 2-20, Rott 1-9, Dougherty 1-4, McGrath 1-3.