Varsity Football

Carroll/Kapaun rivalry takes back seat through Division I recruitment

Carroll's Clay Cundiff and Kapaun's Scott Valentas have spent a lot of time together at football camps this summer and have developed a strong friendship.
Carroll's Clay Cundiff and Kapaun's Scott Valentas have spent a lot of time together at football camps this summer and have developed a strong friendship. @ScottValentass/Twitter

When Clay Cundiff climbed into Scott Valentas' car, they had only met a week before. By the end of the four-hour drive to Kansas City, they were already good friends.

Cundiff, a Bishop Carroll tight end, and Valentas, a Kapaun High defensive back, played on the same 7-on-7 team, Epic 7, for about three months starting in early February. They had to trust each other on the field and stayed up late in hotels off of it.

When the season ended, their friendship didn't.

Recruitment picked up quickly. Valentas has gotten up to 11 scholarship offers, including two Ivy League schools (Cornell and Columbia). And Cundiff got up to eight before committing to Kansas on Tuesday via Twitter.

Cundiff said KU just felt like home. He isn't worried about the naysayers.

"Taking a chance on a program like this, yeah, they're right, KU hasn't had a winning season in a while," Cundiff said. "But if things do change, and you're a part of that, then that's really special to me. Sometimes it's not as much about the wins and losses. It's more about the family."

Cundiff said he talked with Valentas a lot about their experiences at other schools, constantly bouncing ideas off each other and helping to get a more narrow perception of what each school was like.

Valentas said he plans to commit before his senior season starts at Kapaun, and with that, he will lean on his supposed "crosstown rival" for some guidance.

"Clay went to Arizona State and Iowa State and eventually found out KU was the place he wanted to be," Valentas said. "That's kind of what I'm doing, too."

Recruiting isn't as glamorous as it seems to be at times. Although schools appear to be shoveling money at high school students in hopes they turn into a viable contributor or starter, there is a lot of waiting and hoping.

Teams might have 30 scholarship offers out for one position, but many of those are for extremely high-caliber players who aren't expected to commit. On top of that, programs rank which players they believe they have a shot at landing, and teams won't offer particular players until others make their decision.

"At K-State after their camp, they told me I was the third tight end on their board and they were waiting on two other people to commit," Cundiff said. "You just kind of feel like you're not wanted. ... The waiting game is awful."

Valentas said you can feel helpless after going to a camp because there is nothing else to do to impress the coaches on the field. But it certainly helps if a familiar face is in line next to you.

"Going to a camp where you know someone, your confidence goes through the roof," Valentas said. "If you go to a camp alone, you don't really talk and you're not yourself. You're more intimidated. But if you're with someone, you think, 'Let's do this.' "

Cundiff and Valentas have created an interesting dynamic that is, at least in some regard, trickling down into the Carroll/Kapaun rivalry.

The Golden Eagles and Crusaders compete against one another in all 21 Kansas high school sports. They are two of the City League's most successful athletic schools and have a history that traces decades.

One is supposed to hate the other, but Cundiff and Valentas said through their friendship, other "rivals" have seen a change in the perception.

"I see it as a friendly thing," Valentas said. "We just have fun. We will laugh with each other. We go hard against each other because we want to score on the other guy, but if we do something silly or mess up, we give each other a hard time.

The pair are playing with their high school basketball teams in a developmental league this summer. No one is throwing elbows or committing hard fouls — thanks to a duo that is busy trying to make commitments elsewhere.

"A lot of kids at Kapaun don't like Clay just because he's Clay, and he goes to Carroll," Valentas said. "But there's no reason to if you talk to him."