In his private moments this week, Heights defensive lineman Carlos Taylor never tried to talk himself out of the idea that his team, one that lost to Bishop Carroll by 55 points less than two months ago, could beat the Golden Eagles.
Games against Carroll begin with the best of intentions but end like Friday’s, a 48-7 Eagles win that sent them to the Class 5A semifinals. Just two teams have played Carroll (11-0) closer.
“Playing a team like Carroll – Carroll’s a great team and a great program and they completely earn their respect,” Taylor said. “You have to know that you’re coming in to play a great team. As far as preparing, it’s way different from preparing a different week.
“You have to be mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to play a great team like Carroll.”
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As the most dangerous team in the state, Carroll probably gets every opponent’s best effort, it’s just usually difficult to tell.
The Eagles control games from the start, like packing three first-quarter touchdowns Friday into an eight-minute stretch, then four more before Heights scored against second-stringers late in the third quarter.
“The thing that our coaches always emphasize, our games aren’t about the people that we’re playing,” Carroll quarterback Colton Howell said. “It’s about us getting better each week. That’s our main focus going into each game.”
Preparing to play Carroll is a psychological proposition that hasn’t been conquered.
Treating it like just another week doesn’t capture the game’s gravity or the emotion of an unlikely upset, but spending the week thinking about the Eagles’ dominance can defeat a player or a team before the game begins.
The secret, also not yet achieved, may be to acknowledge Carroll’s excellence without becoming consumed by it.
Carroll has offensive weapons in Howell, who accounted for all seven touchdowns Friday, and running back Denzel Goolsby, along with a defense that bottled up the Falcons’ multi-faceted running attack.
It didn’t take Carroll long to utilize them Friday, when Howell took over as Heights focused on containing Goolsby.
The only sliver of hope for the game to turn in Heights’ favor came in the first quarter, when the Falcons sacked Howell twice and forced Carroll to punt with a 14-0 lead.
But Heights fumbled the punt return and Carroll scored on the next play, Howell’s third touchdown run. By the time Carroll scored in the third quarter to make it 48-0 and force a running clock, the end had already happened, and Heights knew it.
“Third quarter, when they’re up by 40-something to zero, that’s when reality really kicked in,” Taylor said. “You can just feel it when it’s over.”
Next week, Carroll travels to Salina South, which has six wins by at least 28 points and players who will listen as their inner voices tell them that they can do the unthinkable.
The Eagles, meanwhile, will take another team’s best shot after the previous 11 best shots against them were overshadowed by the final score.
“Every team that you play is going to be fired up coming out at the start,” Howell said. “It’s just, after a while, teams are looking at the scoreboard and it’s tough to play when you’re that far down.”
C—Howell 16 run (White kick)
C—Howell 7 run (White kick)
C—Howell 16 run (White kick)
C—Weber 69 pass from Howell (White kick)
C—Howell 1 run (White kick)
C—Goolsby 44 pass from Howell (kick failed)
C—Mans 57 pass from Howell (White kick)
H—Autry 12 pass from Zimmerman (Rodriguez kick)
Rushing—Heights, Murphy 9-48, King 20-37, Autry 8-26, Garner 1-5, Gulder 1-5, Allen 1-3, Zimmerman 1-(-11); Carroll, Goolsby 16-77, Howell 13-76, Weber 4-8, Theis 1-0, Allen 3-(-2).
Passing—Heights, Zimmerman 3-8-27-0; Carroll, Howell 4-6-187-0.
Receiving—Heights, Autry 1-12, Johnson 1-9, Harris 1-6; Carroll, Mans 2-74, Weber 1-69, Goolsby 1-44.