After Bishop Carroll finished its final practice of the 2012 football season on Friday, assistant coach Jim Nance presented each of the Eagles’ 35 seniors with a 1978 Eisenhower dollar coin.
The coin was last minted in 1978, also the last time Carroll won a football title.
Some players carried their coins in their shoes for Saturday’s Class 5A title game. Coach Alan Schuckman carried his in a pocket.
“I told them, ‘it’s symbolic of the journey you guys have made. No matter what else happens, it all started here,’ ” said Nance, who played on the ’78 Carroll team.
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Carroll’s season ended as the Eagles expected, with a Class 5A title. The Eagles defeated Bishop Miege 60-21 at Emporia State’s Welch Stadium to finish at 13-0.
The utter dominance in all facets was no surprise. Carroll’s closest game was a 24-point win over Salina South in the semifinals.
“I don’t want to take anything away from (Miege)” said Carroll senior Zach Befort, who had six tackles. “But we were on our game. We meshed together.”
Carroll had two defensive touchdowns, both from senior Michael Leonard. His six-yard interception return midway through the first quarter gave Carroll a 13-0 lead. He also returned a fumble recovery 41 yards for a 60-7 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles have had 10 defensive touchdowns this season.
Offensively, quarterback Zeke Palmer struggled initially, putting a little too much on his passes, and was 3-of-8 passing after the first quarter.
He was irked. He finished 11 of 19 for 206 yards with two touchdowns. He also had 21 carries for 146 yards.
Carroll had a fumble and turned it over on downs on consecutive possessions in the first quarter. But just as it has all season, the Eagles used a series of events to run away from Miege.
Leading 20-0, Carroll had a 12-play, 98-yard drive over five minutes to score on a 12-yard Tory Smith run with 2:36 to go in the first half. While Miege scored on its next possession, Carroll answered with a 38-yard pass play from Palmer to senior Bryce Harvey.
Then Miege failed to recover the ensuing kickoff, and Carroll scored three plays later for its 20th point in just more than two minutes.
“It’s really been a year of dominance,” Schuckman said. “I kind of approached games a little differently.”
He stopped, shook his head.
“Again, I’m trying to put it all together. It seemed kind of easy this year,” he said.
It seemed like that on Saturday, too.
But Carroll was a special team. It had all the components — starting with an outstanding quarterback in Palmer. A trio of hard-running, quick running backs in Jalen Hernandez, Smith and Denzel Goolsby, who each scored two touchdowns Saturday. A deep receiving corps, so deep that it got 111 receiving yards and a touchdown from Harvey, who returned from a knee injury in the final regular-season game; and a physical, smart defense that held Miege to 125 rushing yards and intercepted quarterback Montell Cozart twice.
Carroll had eyed this championship moment since the 2011 season ended in a semifinal loss to Hutchinson. But many teams have focused on similar goals and failed to attain them.
Not Carroll. Those insidious traps of lack of composure or overconfidence didn’t hit the Eagles.
Schuckman and player after player noted how they didn’t play down to the opponent’s level, but primarily they pointed to the team’s chemistry.
“Our camaraderie was so strong,” senior receiver Matt Denning said. “Everyone was a part of this team. They played their role. A senior who didn’t start knew his role on the scout team. A sophomore who didn’t start knew his role.”
Befort hearkened back to an August meeting, when Schuckman told players they had to be all in.
“It wasn’t going to be one player doing stuff,” Befort said. “We all had to do our best, and that’s what we did. We didn’t play as individuals. We all came together, and the scoreboard shows it.”
He pointed at the scoreboard, still shining with the final score.
“It’s been since 1978 that we won our last title, and we had the mindset that we were not going to be denied,” Befort said.
|Bishop Miege (7-6)||0||7||0||14||—||21|
|Bishop Carroll (13-0)||13||27||20||0||—||60|
BC – Hernandez 9 run (Ohm kick)
BC – Leonard 6 INT return (kick blocked)
BC – Hernandez 21 run (Ohm kick)
BC – Smith 12 run (Ohm kick)
BM – Schnieders recovers fumble in end zone (Carter kick)
BC – Harvey 38 pass from Palmer (kick blocked)
BC – Smith 24 pass from Palmer (Ohm kick)
BC – Goolsby 1 run (Ohm kick)
BC – Goolsby 6 run (Ohm kick)
BC – Leonard 41 fumble recovery returned (pass failed)
BM – Fisher 58 fumble recovery returned (Carter kick)
BM – Murphy 50 pass from Cozart (Carter kick)
Rushing – Miege, Cozart 15-67, Johnson 5-34, Wilson 2-21, Martin 2-3, Baska 2-2, Gray 1-0. Carroll, Palmer 21-145, Smith 8-61, Hernandez 9-54, Goolsby 8-24, Skilling 1-14, Weber 4-9, Miller 1-3, Mans 1-(-5).
Passing – Miege, Cozart 13-28-186-2. Carroll, Palmer 11-19-206-0, Miller 1-1-11-0.
Receiving – Miege, VanDyne 5-85, Murphy 3-68, Johnson 3-8, Martin 2-25. Carroll, Harvey 5-111, Smith 3-69, Linnebur 1-12, Newell 1-11, Hernandez 1-9, Denning 1-5.