It was breezy in Andover, to be sure. But not nearly enough to clip Bishop Carroll's Zeke Palmer and the rest of the Golden Eagles.
“Somebody said the other day, 'well, it's going to be windy.' I said, 'we're going to need a hurricane.' Because that's the only thing that's going to slow that guy down,” said Andover head coach Mike Lee. “He throws a great ball. He is accurate. He doesn't miss very often.”
Palmer helped orchestrate six scoring drives – including two rushing touchdowns and two passing of his own – as Bishop Carroll rolled in and out of Andover with a 49-14 victory. The win sends the Eagles (11-0) to a 5A semifinal matchup with Salina South (10-1).
“We got to this point last year. We want to go one game further,” said Bishop Carroll head coach Alan Schuckman. “I know we can play better football than we did tonight.”
Andover gave the Eagles a battle early, but several plays deflated the Trojans.
Gage Moss broke off a 51 yard run on Andover's first drive, but it stalled when Blayne Martin recovered a fumble for the Eagles three plays later.
“That's a dream start, if we could have gotten down there and gotten into the end zone,” Lee said.
The defense tried to fend off Carroll's offense, as an intentional grounding call set up third-and-29 for the Eagles. But when Carroll needed 29, Jalen Hernandez went 30 with a quick pass from Palmer.
“It was a great conversion by him. It was some good blocking, but he made some good people miss,” Schuckman said. “That was a tremendous performance on his part.”
Palmer banged in a touchdown run from one yard out to put Carroll ahead 7-0. On its next drive, Tory Smith shimmied 22 yards for a score. Facing fourth-and-goal from Andover's one-yard line on its third drive, Palmer powered home another rushing touchdown to give Carroll a daunting 21-0 edge before the first quarter was over.
“You could tell we were out of our element. We had a little deer in the headlights going on early,” Lee said. “We were kind of caught up in the big game moment.”
Palmer found Troy Dewey with a 15-yard touchdown pass four minutes before halftime to give Carroll a 28-0 margin at the break.
The momentum swung into the second half, as Jacob Fayette picked off Andover's Cole Gumeringer and took it to the house for a 35-0 lead. Matt Denning hauled in Palmer's second touchdown pass and Smith scampered 40 yards for his second score to push Carroll ahead 49-0 before the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, Elijah Renoux made a dive into the pylon with a 13-yard run for Andover's first touchdown. Gumeringer later tossed a touchdown to Dallas Bruner to bring the Trojan deficit to 49-14.
Andover's offense sputtered most of the night against a ball-hawking Carroll front seven, unable to reach 150 yards of offense.
“The thing you don't necessarily get when you're watching them on film is they are so fast,” Lee said. “Where you really notice it is defensively. The speed difference is so noticeable when they're on defense. They run and they're aggressive.”
Smith piled up more than 150 yards on the ground for the Eagles. Palmer passed for 186.
“Zeke Palmer is a special player,” Schuckman said. “He's a great leader and makes play. He just has a will to win. He's the total package.”
Andover ended its season at 8-3, a stark turnaround for a squad that went 1-8 the previous year.
“All those boys are disappointed in the locker room, but I told them that they've done some amazing stuff this year,” Lee said. “They had a great season. To watch the interest level grow as we went through the year, that was pretty cool.”