Varsity Kansas

Tackling history: Carroll's defense helps Eagles to championship game

The Bishop Carroll football team doesn't have a face associated with it. There are no five-star recruits. There are no monster athletes on defense.

Yes, the same Carroll team that defeated six-time defending state champion Hutchinson 21-0 in last Friday's Class 5A semifinal is faceless. But don't confuse that with not having an identity.

A core group of defensive seniors has been working to build that identity all season, sacrificing individual stats for the sake of disciplined, assignment-driven football.

Their masterpiece — so far — was the shutout of the Salthawks. It was the defense's fourth time blanking an opponent this season and the first shutout against Hutchinson in 13 years.

"What we build our program on is having a tough, hardnosed defense," Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. "The philosophy hasn't changed. Our kids have always worked hard. I think the thing that has changed is they've been relentless this year — always making big plays and with stops. We've had some pretty darn good defenses in the past. This one ranks up there with the best of them."

The Golden Eagles have held opponents to one touchdown or less seven times this season. Carroll defensive coordinator Jim Nance, in his 16th year, utilizes aggressive play calling to rattle and confuse opponents.

Carroll defensive end Beau Bell has racked up 17 sacks and 36 tackles for loss through 12 games and is part of a close-knit group of senior leaders.

"In general, we're all pretty much best friends. We're one," Bell said. "No matter how athletic the other team is, we find a way. We get that Gang-Green defense and all eleven of us get to the ball. That's how we're taught by coaches."

Bell is backed up by linebacker Aaron Jackson (96 tackles, four sacks), safety Max Martinez (63 tackles, four interceptions) and defensive end Tucker Chadd (17 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two interceptions).

"Everyone's a leader. I think that Beau, Max (Martinez) and all of those guys are reliable," Chadd said. "You can always count on them to make plays whenever its their turn to step up.... We all know that everyone is going to take care of their own job and who is going to get what done and what area we need help at."

The Eagles run a platoon system, allowing players to focus on honing their crafts defensively for at least two or three years. Schuckman said it makes them better, more specialized football players. "Last year we had some big ol' boys on the defensive line. This year it just seems like we have a lot of defensive chemistry," Bell said. "We don't have the biggest guys but, we have some smart players. It's nice to be recognized as one of the top defenses, but we've worked hard of it."

Carroll took pride in shutting down Hutchinson and 1,900-yard rusher Ben Heeney, but immediately shifted its focus to Class 5A title game opponent Blue Valley after the win.

Blue Valley has a 1,700-yard rusher in Justin Fulks, but also has a 2,400-yard passer in Kyle Zimmerman (32 touchdowns and only six interceptions).

The Blue Valley offensive line is led by 6-5, 288-pound stalwart Kirk Harris.

"Those guys are big. They've got guys that are around 6-6 and 285 pounds, but we've got to go out there and play like we've been doing all year," Bell said. "The defense has got to come with its 'A' game and so does the offense. It has to be a team effort."

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