Varsity Kansas

Blue Valley defense shines in championship

EMPORIA — Bishop Carroll scored a touchdown Saturday when Danny Crippen started to leave the field, acting as if he represented the Eagles’ 12th man.

It’s odd that Blue Valley’s defense never created a similar scenario during the Tigers’ 35-14 win in the Class 5A championship game. It often seemed as if the Tigers had an extra player on the field — usually two or three more.

Blue Valley defenders were everywhere. They didn’t give Carroll quarterback Tyler Nance time to throw and they swarmed Nance when he tried to run. Same thing with running back Brandon Weber.

Carroll’s receivers were often hit immediately after they caught the ball. Nance threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, and Carroll backup quarterback Zeke Palmer threw an interception on his only pass attempt.

Blue Valley’s defensive performance reminded Carroll defensive end Beau Bell of how the Eagles usually played during their first 10 games.

“They actually did, getting all those interceptions and turnovers and everything,” Bell said. “They came out to play and we didn’t.”

On Carroll’s first few series, Nance couldn’t find room up the middle and Weber, hobbled by an injured ankle, was unable to produce any long runs or even medium ones.

But Carroll wasn’t scaling back. The plays that usually work for the Eagles did nothing to keep Blue Valley’s massive defensive line off-guard.

Blue Valley seemed to know what Carroll was going to do before it happened. Nance’s first pass was intercepted. His first rushing attempt resulted in a sack. On one drive he was sacked, and four plays later lost a fumble.

Nance didn’t have a run longer than three yards until his seventh attempt.

“We knew what they were going to do, we just didn’t execute,” Nance said. “And we turned the ball over way too many times.”

The Eagles got close to turning momentum once in each half. They were trailing 21-0 and Nance had just been sacked to create a fourth down from Blue Valley’s 13-yard line.

Carroll coach Alan Schuckman sent out the field goal unit and Crippen started to run off before Nance took the snap and hit his wide-open receiver for an easy touchdown.

Carroll scored on its first drive of the second half then got a Max Martinez interception, giving the Eagles a chance to pull within two touchdowns before the end of the third quarter. But Carroll turned the ball over on downs.

The Eagles didn’t have a first down during their final four drives.

“They physically outmatched us up front,” Schuckman said. “Defensively, their front four took control of our offensive line and got a lot of pressure on Tyler. We’ve been able to keep people off-balance this year and we just weren’t able to do it.”

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