Kapaun Mount Carmel coach Dan Adelhardt must fight the temptation to squeeze a few more plays out of senior Colter Hullings. The coach needs his top cornerback fresh. He also wants to use his talents with the football.
“He’s one of the best corners I’ve ever coached,” Adelhardt said. “I’m very leery of using kids on offense if they’re a defensive starter. You can’t just run them out of gas. He’s got to be in great shape, which he is, but we’ve got to blend him in a little bit more.”
Even without Hullings as a full-time receiver, Kapaun possesses plenty of offensive threats.
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The Crusaders went 6-4 last season and lost to Salina South in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. After a 1-2 start, they won five of their final six regular-season games, including three consecutive shutouts, capped by a 17-14 win at Heights to clinch a playoff spot.
Senior quarterback Brock Monty started midway through his freshman season and earned All-City League honors as a sophomore, when he helped Kapaun to a 10-2 record and a spot in the Class 5A semifinals. As a junior, he completed 98 of 213 passes and ran for 540 yards and earned second-team league and honorable mention All-Class 5A honors.
Senior tailback Alexander Norris, an honorable mention All-Class 5A pick, ran for 977 yards and averaged five yards a carry. Junior receiver Connor Shank and sophomore Nick Channel, who caught 16 passes for 245 yards as a freshman, are back, as is junior fullback Jordan Paul.
“Everybody kind of looks (to Monty) and they know he’s going to get us there,” Hullings said. “He has a calming effect.”
The Crusaders lost honorable mention All-Class 5A offensive linemen Ben Powers and Mickey Boulanger, defensive linemen Colton Ocker and Michael Lickteig and All-Metro punter Joe Hickerson, who caught a team-leading 31 passes as a receiver. Monty, Norris and others will operate behind a rebuilt offensive line. Senior center Matt Knoff is the lone returning starter and should be joined by seniors Jack Chessmore, Nick Werne and Henry Heiman.
“We have a really talented group of backs, defensive backs, running backs, linebackers, receivers,” Adelhardt said. “We are thin up front. Numbers thin and experience thin.”
Hullings, an honorable mention All-Class 5A pick on defense, enjoys the versatility of pitching in, while making cornerback his home. Cornerbacks are often in the spotlight, making high-risk plays that can end with a momentum-turning interception or watching a receiver celebrate in the end zone.
“It lets me show off a little bit with my quickness and athleticism,” he said. “It keeps things interesting, because you’ve always got to be ready. If something goes wrong, you’ve got to forget about it and move on. You’ve got to train yourself and get past it.”
Hullings, who also returns punts, picked off six passes last season.
“He’s got an instinct for the ball like a lot of people don’t,” Adelhardt said. “He’s got great feet. He understands angles, and it helps being athletic. If he makes a mistake, he recovers well.”
While the interior of the defensive line is undecided, Kapaun’s defense will feature several returning linebackers. Senior Nick Nece, who finished second in Class 5A wrestling at 189 pounds, senior Nate O’Neil and junior David Akao played plenty of snaps last season. Junior Ryan Clark is another option.
“All those kids have that linebacker personality — they can run and tackle,” Adelhardt said.