For the past eight football seasons, Carroll and Heights have played in the season opener. Which meant the City League champ was basically decided at that point.
Since 2006, Carroll won the CL title in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and tied with Heights in 2008.
Heights won the league title in 2006, 2010 and 2011, with Carroll finishing second each time. Heights finished second once.
Carroll, ranked first in Class 5A, and Heights, ranked third in 5A, won’t meet until Sept. 26, the fourth game of the season.
“I think it’s something they should have switched up,” Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. “I don’t know any other sport where you open up with the same team. It only makes sense. That’s kind of the flexibility of a nine-team conference where you don’t have to play the same people every year.”
While the Carroll-Heights rivalry has been intense — Carroll won the 2012 Class 5A title, while Heights won the 6A title in 2010 — the Eagles open Friday at Northwest, a west-side rival that is a mile north of Carroll. Heights plays host to Southeast.
“I think when you go into the first game, there’s so much unknown anyway,” Schuckman said. “I don’t see it as much different, really, because I think the opponent we’re going into is just as comparable.… It doesn’t matter where Northwest falls in the schedule, the kids get fired up for the game. Heights, doesn’t matter where it falls in the schedule, kids will be ready to play against one of the top programs in the state of Kansas.”
Carroll beat Northwest 12-7 in 2013 in a game that the Eagles turned to backup — and current — quarterback Colton Howell in the second half.
“We did struggle offensively for the first three quarters of the game,” Schuckman said. “We felt we needed a jumpstart, and Colton took over from there. He made some good plays, made some good runs, made some good throws.”
Northwest and Carroll play a spread offense, but it could be a defensive battle, with both teams displaying some of the top defensive players in the area. Carroll returns eight defensive starters, including a top-notch secondary of Josh Hornback and Mark Quaney, who had a combined 110 tackles and nine interceptions.
Northwest could be just as talented with defensive end Andres Ronquillo and defensive backs Romello Cotman and Brendan Johnson.
Carroll will be without senior Nick Nolting, an All-Metro selection on the defensive line in 2013. Nolting, who had 63 tackles, 32 for loss, and 11 sacks, quit the team last week. Wrestling is Nolting’s primary sport, and he won the Class 5A title at 220 pounds.
“He said he didn’t like (football), so he decided to go a different route,” Schuckman said. “We kind of use the motto of ‘next man up,’ whether it’s an injury or not.… We had to make a few changes. To be honest with you, we probably had 10, 11 kids that started at different points that weren’t on the field, so it allowed us to get some of those guys back on the field.”