In maybe the biggest play of the game, Drake Unrein took the snap and kept it.
Unrein, the Bishop Carroll fourth-string and junior-varsity quarterback, was forced in after fellow sophomore Aiden Niedens was taken out by rule because his helmet came off. The Golden Eagles faced third and 6 up a score early in the fourth quarter on Friday.
If they got it, they could drain the clock, potentially score and clinch the win. If they didn’t, Kapaun would have good field position with the wind at its back with a shot at tying the game.
Unrein tripped for about 5 yards, but he got it as Carroll went on to score again and win 28-14. It marked the 20th straight season Carroll has beaten rival Kapaun.
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Senior tight end Clay Cundiff said he doesn’t think he has ever seen Unrein get tackled in a JV game. And senior receiver Gunner Lynch called him the next Blake Bell, a former Carroll quarterback who went on to play at Oklahoma.
The play symbolized the Bishop Carroll football season — not ideal but not broken.
“They got a lot of heart just like last year’s team, and I think that’s something they took away,” coach Dusty Trail said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity and a tough schedule. But we’ve had to fight through it, and I think we’ll come out a lot better for it.”
Carroll lost its starting quarterback, senior Cade Becker, to a shoulder injury in the first quarter of last week’s 36-33 road win over Great Bend. A couple of weeks earlier, junior backup John Honas broke his hand and was ruled out for the season.
That put the ball in Niedens’ hands for his first high school start in perhaps the biggest rivalry in Wichita.
Cundiff, who scored the game-clincher, said that’s just how Carroll is built.
“The tradition at Carroll has always been, ‘Next man up,’” he said. “Three years ago, all four captains got hurt, and next man up, they still made it to state.”
Carroll (4-2) hasn’t lost to Kapaun since Oct. 1, 1999. That’s 6,499 days from Friday. And that streak will continue at least until the 5A playoffs, which start in three weeks.
“They just think about the streak and try to beat us,” senior running back Jackson Nichols said. “We just try to beat everybody.”
But this game was different. The Crusaders had Carroll on its heels through halftime.
Kapaun led 14-7 on a pair of touchdowns from Scott Valentas, including a 50-yard interception return for a score. The vibe on the Carroll sideline was off.
But late in the third quarter, when the Golden Eagles needed a spark, Cundiff walked into the huddle with Trail and the offense and proposed they run a play they had only practice (unsuccessfully) a couple of times that week.
“Hook-and-ladder?” he said.
Trail thought about it and went with it.
Niedens fired to senior receiver Mason Baalman on the Carroll sideline, and Baalman flipped the ball to Cundiff running by. The play went for about 40 yards and set the Golden Eagles up deep in Kapaun territory.
A few plays later, senior receiver Gunner Lynch found the end zone to give Carroll its first lead since 8:39 in the second quarter.
“We did have to pull out all the stops to get things going offensively,” Trail said.
Carroll’s win didn’t come easily Friday. It wasn’t like the so many of the other games in the streak, in which the Eagles hold a 394-84 margin over Kapaun dating to 2010. But nothing has been easy for Carroll this season.
And nothing likely will, but Carroll seems suited for that.
“These guys got a lot of trust and a lot of faith in each other,” Trail said. “That’s what we had to do tonight.”