Bishop Carroll might have a new football coach this season, but its winning formula remains unchanged.
The ingredients are simple: Take one strong-armed quarterback, a corps of tall receivers, a couple of elusive running backs, a large offensive line and a stifling defense.
All of those elements were on display Friday night as the unbeaten Golden Eagles raced to a 35-0 halftime lead over West, then cruised home for a 45-14 victory in their home opener.
“With the receivers we have, we really create some matchup problems for people,” coach Dusty Trail said. “They’re tall, they’re big, (and) they’re physical.
“We’ve got a lot of different guys out there making plays. You can’t really focus on any particular guys, because we can hurt you in other places.”
Senior quarterback Braden Howell said it was a game where the Golden Eagles focused on fighting their way through, and that attitude paid off.
“They (West) came in here, and they were 2-0, but we just fought the whole game,” said Howell, who passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns. “It’s definitely special. Having those tall guys out there (receiving), I’ve got some weapons out there to work with. It’s pretty nice.”
Frequently, that height created some profound mismatches against much smaller West cornerbacks. In fact, Carroll was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul when a receiver tried to hurdle a West defender, which is illegal.
“We have some tall dudes,” Howell said.
Carroll (3-0) established its dominance from the opening drive, going 74 yards in 11 plays in just 2:52 for a 7-0 lead. Howell and Desmond Smith hooked up on a screen pass with Smith darting past Pioneers defenders into the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead.
After Dalton Nichols recovered a fumble of the ensuing kickoff at the West 29, Howell needed just six plays for a second touchdown, hitting Joseph Holthusen from 26 yards out in a drive that took just 1:27.
“In West’s defense, that’s tough to bounce back from something like that when you have that occur,” Trail said. “It affects you mentally and makes the game a little tougher for you.”
In the second quarter, Carroll exploited mismatches at the wide out position, with Howell completing two passes to 6-4 Clay Cundiff and one to 6-3 Thomas Helten. Junior Jackson Nichols carried the last 2 yards for a 21-0 lead. Smith capped a 68-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run just 12 seconds before halftime.
“They’re a good 1-2 punch,” Trail said of his two backs.
But the Golden Eagles weren’t done. A West fumble was returned 40 yards by senior Zachery Roth, boosting Carroll to a 35-0 halftime advantage.
Carroll was able to rest its starters in the second half, but not before Howell and Helten teamed up for a 7-yard scoring pass.
“Tom’s a high jumper (in track),” Howell said, “so I don’t always put it out there for him, but I let him go up and get it. He definitely did a good job (Friday night).”
Senior kicker Rodney Steven closed Carroll’s scoring with a 28-yard field goal.
In the fourth quarter, West (2-1) managed two touchdowns against a running clock in the fourth quarter to avert a shutout.
Howell completed 15 of 22 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in slightly more than one half of play. Helten had eight receptions for 103 yards and one score. Smith managed a rushing and a receiving touchdown in the game for Carroll, which faces a short week this week before a Thursday night battle at East.
Trail said there is still room for improvement. There were mistakes by Carroll in the game, but none proved consequential. For instance, a Carroll punt struck a Golden Eagles player in the back and was recovered by West. The Pioneers’ Jacob Peterson picked off Howell at the West 48, but the drive stalled at the Carroll 32.
“We’ve still got a ways to go to be where we want to be,” Trail said. “We’ve got a lot of things to improve on.”
The Golden Eagles defense saw those mistakes as a challenge, he said.
“That’s where I think we’re seeing some real improvement is on the defensive side of the ball,” Trail said. “I thought our defense really stepped up to the challenge and did a real good job. Our defensive coaches devised a good game plan and took away some of the things they like to do.”
West 0 0 0 14 – 14
Bishop Carroll 14 21 10 0 – 45
BC – Smith 34 pass from Howell (Steven kick)
BC – Holthusen 26 pass from Howell (Steven kick)
BC – Nichols 2 run (Steven kick)
BC – Smith 1 run (Steven kick)
BC – Roth 40 fumble return (Steven kick)
BC – Helton 7 pass from Howell (Lee kick)
BC – FB Steven 28
W – Deshazier 26 pass from Parks (kick blocked)
W – Bell 54 run (Miller pass from Parks)
RUSHING – West: Bell 8-79, Avery 2-21, Johnson 4-16, Deshazier 3-13, Gilbert 2-9, Parks 15-8, Sellers 4-(-2). Bishop Carroll: Smith 11-35, Nichols 8-32, Howell 3-11, Le 1-3, Becker 2-2.
PASSING – West: Parks 2-4-0-4-55. Bishop Carroll: Howell 15-22-1-224; Becker 1-3-0-11.
RECEIVING – West: Griffin 1-29, Deshazier 1-26. Bishop Carroll: Helten 8-103, Cundiff 3-28, Baalmann 2-33, Smith 1-34, Holthusen 1-26, Pilens 1-11.