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The Streak Tells A Story: Carroll and Kapaun
January 31, 2011VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Kansas
Photo by William Purnell
PRINCE HAD IT RIGHT Little went right for previously undefeated Kapaun against Carroll. Even their sign-making was inaccurate. Kapaun last partied against Carroll in 1999.
The Streak Tells A Story
Another Carroll senior class will graduate having never lost to Kapaun. The parochial power structure is intact, as Carroll dismantled Kapaun, 41-3, their 12th straight victory in the series
By Jeffrey Parson
Around her, the rattle of pans and whir of plastic wrap provide distractions, but Tonia Nance is focused on only one number: 11.
She has spent the past week thinking about 11, really. It's the uniform number of her son, quarterback Tyler Nance, and the year he will graduate Bishop Carroll.
And on this day, less than four hours before Tyler and his Eagle teammates will play rival Kapaun Mount Carmel, Tonia knows full well it also stands for the 11 straight victories Carroll own over rival Kapaun.
It makes her nervous.
"The bigger the number with something like that," she says, "the more intense everything gets."
Tom's brother, Jim, has been Schuckman's defensive coordinator at Carroll for 16 years.
So, as Tonia notes, Tyler had no choice "but to grow up with Carroll football."
And, on the afternoon of Oct. 8, all those connections are on Tonia's mind as she and about 20 other mothers work with purpose in the Carroll cafeteria preparing the Eagles' pregame meal.
"We have committees for everything that goes into the meal," she says. "The moms from the past year pass on the handbook. It's like passing the torch."
And the meal never changes: spaghetti, lasagna, corn, salad, garlic bread, Gatorade and cookies. The idea of "carbing up" before games originated the menu, but everyone understands now that it's about tradition and superstition as much as anything.
"If we vary from it," Tonia says, pausing long to contemplate the idea for the first time. "Well, we just don't do that."
No, some things don't change around Carroll football and since two victories over Kapaun in 2000 started the streak, one of those things is defeating the Crusaders. Like the meal, that will not change on this night either.
There are 100 minutes remaining before kickoff, and Kapaun Mount Carmel's locker room at Cessna Stadium sits empty. The former Wichita State women's track and field locker room is poorly lit and choking with a pungent smell that will never be fully eliminated.
On the rows of folding chairs, there are only shoulder pads and helmets.
The players? They are in the fresh air of the lower concourse. Some toss a ball around, but most of them share in a pregame routine Kapaun coach Dan Adelhardt brought with him five years ago from Hesston High: lifting weights.
There are no modern tension bands or rubberized plates. No, these barbells and metal weights are rusted, clang loudly and kick off a dust resulting from sweat of long ago.
Adelhardt even gets into the idea, curling a barbell loaded with 35-pound plates 10 times.
"When we came here, one of the biggest things we stressed was getting after it in the weight room," he says. "But before games, it's not about the weight really. We don't lift a lot. It's a mentality of working hard, and we have to feed it to them, feed it all year long."
It's a mentality that has helped Kapaun win its first five games by a combined score of 216-36.
Adelhardt gives a quick, broad speech. Most of it would apply to any game, but one directive is almost assuredly related to playing such a bitter rival.
"Don't talk trash out there," he tells the players. "If you've got the ball when the plays over, hand it to a ref. Don't be snipping at them."
As the Crusaders exit the locker room for warmups, there is an excitement that slowly fades to tension. It's tough to avoid, especially when Carroll has seemingly endless scores of players criss-crossing into a stretching routine highlighted by quick chants that sound like a disciplined army of hundreds.
The intimidation is almost unavoidable.
But when the Crusaders re-enter the locker room, their game faces start to cement. Team leaders say a few words, and assistant coaches provide important reminders.
Adelhardt, knowing key injuries to his team and Carroll's tradition leave Kapaun with no room for error, emphasizes one final point.
"We win field position," he tells them, "we win this game."
Then he gets his players revved up by asking simple questions, each started with a emphatic, bellowed "CRU-SADERS" - think "Regulators, mount up!" from the movie "Young Guns" - that gets the huddle of players tighter and tighter.
Seconds before he steps on the field, Adelhardt is standing in the tunnel. A Kapaun fan comes to the rail, barking, "Coach, coach!"
When Adelhardt turns, the fan says, "Ten years is long enough."
You get the point
Kapaun Mount Carmel junior Matthew Ayres was not quite 5 years old the last time the Crusaders defeated Carroll back in 1999. So forgive him if the details are a little fuzzy.
But with Kapaun's unbeaten record, he says "The whole school has been extremely confident this is finally the year to stop the streak." He takes a spot right in the middle of the black-clad student section in the Cessna Stadium grandstand.
"Party like it's 1998," it reads, and Ayres holds it up proudly as the game prepares to start.
"I remembered the Prince song," he explains. "But then I realized that 1999 would be wrong. So I changed it to this."
Except it's not wrong. Carroll's 11 straight victories date back to the 2000 season, in which the Eagles twice defeated Kapaun, which actually won the 1999 game, 34-8.
Either way - 1999, 1998, yada, yada, yada - it's been a long time, and the Kapaun fans are anxious to end their misery.
It does not take long to see that might not happen here. On Kapaun's first snap, quarterback Keaton Lewis is ruled to have fumbled just prior to the end of his run.
In 16 seconds, the field position Adelhardt was so concerned with has already become an issue. Carroll's Brandon Weber quickly turns it into a touchdown.
The score is still 7-0 in the second quarter, and that is enough to make Tom and Tonia Nance nervous. Sitting in the middle of two rows of friends and family, Tom munches on sunflower seeds while his legs constantly bounce up and down. Tonia is right behind him, her left hand fiddling with a radio and her right hand clutching binoculars.
Suddenly, Tyler finds a hole, breaks left and is gone, outracing the Crusaders for a 46-yard touchdown.
The high ten everyone in the group normally shares could wait this time. Tom turns to Tonia, and they hug.
"He only runs that fast when someone is chasing him," Tom beams to everyone. "He doesn't like to get hit!"
Kapaun keeps the game respectable through three quarters, trailing 20-3.
But in the fourth quarter, Carroll's constant pressure and a defense composed of what Schuckman will later call "throwbacks" bust it wide open.
Eagles linebacker Tucker Chadd returns an interception 47 yards for one touchdown and then adds another score on a fumble recovery, capping a 41-3 Carroll victory.
Each score is painful for Ayres, and his sign is now resting on the cement. He has not made plans on how to deal with an outcome like this.
"I'll probably go directly home," he says. "I'll sit alone and wonder what happened."
A delightful dozen
With his team gathered close after the game, Schuckman goes into coach mode. He reminds the players this is only one victory, that the next three games are actually more important since they are district games, that at Carroll, you play for more than one rivalry.
Then a wry smile crosses Schuckman's face.
"But this is 12 in a row, isn't it?" he says.
There is no need to remind the players. Chadd's parents and brother are Carroll grads, and he cannot lie about the importance of graduating from Carroll unbeaten against Kapaun.
"This game is bigger than anything to me," he says. "You know, every game is important, but none of them are more exciting than this."
Tyler Nance could not agree more. He finishes with 73 yards rushing and 75 yards passing. With the field and stands almost empty, he takes a moment to take it all in.
"You know, growing up, we went to every Carroll game, but I didn't really watch them," he says. "You know, you're a kid playing with the other kids and stuff. But the Kapaun game? It was the only one I'd sit and actually watch. They were so hard-hitting and exciting.
"I always knew I wanted to play in this game someday. To win it again, it's everything."
Jeffrey Parson can be seen weekly on KWCH, Channel 12's "Sports Sunday." Reach him at email@example.com.