Kapaun enters football playoffs as no. 1 team in west 5A

Gabriel Breitenbach, Staff Writer and Broadcast Specialist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kapaun Mt. Carmel entered the final week of the regular season as the projected no. 1 seed, but knew that they needed a miracle on the other side of town in order for that to remain true. And a miracle was delivered as the 4-3 East Aces upset the 6-1 Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles to make KMC the undisputed no. 1 team in the west division of 5A football. 

In addition to their no. 1 seed, KMC was also named co-champion of the Greater Wichita Athletic League (GWAL), their first league since the team won in 1985 under the legendary coach Ed Kriwel.  Their seeding also puts KMC in position to win a state title, another feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the tenure of Kriwel, who led the school to its last state championship win in 1987. 

Now focusing on the present, the first team on the Crusader’s chopping block will be the lowly 0-8 Goddard Lions. A team KMC defeated in the playoffs last year, beating them handily with a final score of 38-15. Goddard’s final matchup of the regular season saw them slaughtered 49-13 by the Andover Trojans. A scoring differential that accurately illustrates the Lion’s season as they have only put up 93 total points (11.6 points per game) on the season, and have allowed their opponents 269 total points (33.6 points per game). Players are always taught never to overlook an opponent; however, one can safely assume the Crusaders will be able to defeat their first round opponent. 

Unable to predict the opponents to follow next week’s contest, the Crusaders look to prepare themselves for a deep playoff run. Much of this will be accomplished by simply staying true to their identity as a team. KMC has had unprecedented success on both sides of the ball this season. This success was found not by extreme experimenting or wild alterations, but was instead crafted through repetition and perfection. 

They have found their niche in the run game, in no small part to the high level of production running back Omari Elias has been able to put out on the field. The sophomore ended the season with over 1,500 yards on the ground to go along with his 17 touchdowns. The Crusader offense will more than definitely depend on Elias not only for his production on the ground, but will also look to control the pace of the game through the rush attack as a whole. That being said, KMC might look to diversify their offense to an extent in order to prevent their opponents from simply stacking the box and containing Crusader running backs. While this is not a necessity, diversification through switching out running backs to give Elias a break and allow for other backs like seniors Austin Ruda and Will Doolittle, or allowing the air attack to develop into a more prominent role could help the Crusaders in the playoffs. 

That is not to say that the ladder has not found success during quarterback Dylan Hamilton’s first year at the helm; quite the opposite. The KMC passing game has put up over 650 yards and 12 touchdowns, not bad when one takes into account that the young quarterback has only thrown 74 passes this season. The sophomore also has a receiving core that, even with the loss of Senior Henry Thengvall, is bursting with talent. This includes three-star tight end Will Anciaux, who leads the team in receiving yards with 211 on only 15 receptions. This includes a one-handed awe inspiring 30-yard touchdown catch the Junior made against Heights in week 8. To accompany him, the Crusaders have sophomore wide out Will Thengvall and Senior receiver Isaac Schmitz. Schmitz especially has stepped up in the absence of Henry Thengvall, and has proven that he can perform during critical situations. 

To tie it all together is the KMC defense who has only allowed 12.5 points per contest, and has done a tremendous job of limiting their opponent’s rush attack. Something they’ll have to replicate in order to make a run to the championship game. The Crusader defense has shown slight signs of weakness when facing a passing team; however, the secondary has executed on their tackles and have limited big plays when they come. The most impressive aspect of the defense is the chemistry the unit processes. This has led to not only high morale,but a high level of confidence heading into the playoffs.

“We’re feeling really confident, I feel like we play together well, I feel like we trust each other, and trust our coaches, and we know that we can get the job done,” said junior linebacker Louis Traglia. 

While this sentiment is shared among the junior’s teammates, the team still recognizes they have to earn every win. They’ll have to limit mistakes such as turnovers and penalties and the team will need to remain true to themselves in order to defeat higher level opponents.

“We need to focus on having great practices throughout the week, and playing our type of football. We need to take care of the ball on offense and force turnovers on defense,” said senior Isaac Schmitz. 

KMC heads into the next week with a road to history in front of them. It has been a rollercoaster of heartache, unexpected success, as well as numerous disappointing seasons. A road that has the potential to end Saturday, Nov. 27 with the 5A state championship game.