Still waiting

Lori Habiger/Center Stage Photography

By Sean Boston for Kpreps.com
Posted: November 26, 2017 - 12:34 PM



When Bishop Carroll football starts a quarterback with the last name of “Howell” in the state championship, then it’s usually the perfect ingredient for a state title. Colton Howell led the Golden Eagles to a 39-7 state title in 2014 over St. Thomas Aquinas, while his younger brother, Braden, helped guide the 2017 team to a 38-28 victory over Aquinas on Saturday afternoon at Carnie Smith Stadium.

“It means a lot to me,” Braden Howell said. “He’s always been my biggest support system and he listens to all of the games every Friday night, whether he’s in the hotel room for an away game or listening in his basement of his place in Council Bluffs, he’s always finding a way to listen.”

Howell finished the afternoon with five total touchdowns, three passing and two rushing scores for the Golden Eagles on 32 of 39 passing. Will Swanson paved the way for Aquinas’ offense with 169 yards passing and two scores.

The Golden Eagles came into Saturday’s state championship game with their third string tight end, second string running back and many unfamiliar faces on the offensive line due to key injuries late in the season, but that didn’t bother the Carroll coaching staff or players.

“It’s always been the next man up for us,” Bishop Carroll coach Dusty Trail said. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity this season and we’ve had numerous guys step up and fill the shoes of the guy in front of them and that’s what it’s all about.”

The Aquinas offense entered the game after dominating opponents in the playoffs and throughout the season. The Saints’ flexbone offense has caused all sorts of problems for opposing offenses, but the Golden Eagles found a way to hold the high-powered unit in check. Carroll held the Saints’ offense to 227 total yards and just 58 yards rushing, the key piece of the flexbone offense.

“Our defense has been big for us all season long,” Trail said. “They knew they were going up against a very strong and physical offensive line, but that didn’t phase them. They were able to get into the backfield and did a great job of that.”

Aquinas struck first on a 13-yard touchdown run from Andrew Hicks after a short field thanks to the opening kickoff being returned to the Carroll 20-yd line from Jared Flood.

The Golden Eagles then used a three-minute scoring drive capped on a 41-yd pass from Braden Howell to Thomas Helten to put Carroll up 7-6 with 3:49 to go in the first quarter.

The Saints were able to gain the lead back on a 14-yd touchdown pass from Will Swanson to Hicks and after the 2-point conversion was made, Aquinas went up 14-7.

That lead wouldn’t last long, as Howell answered back with a 1-yd run to tie the game at 14 apiece. Carroll grabbed the 17-14 lead going into the halftime break on a 20-yd field goal from Rodney Steven.

“The field goal by Rodney was a big play for us,” Trail said. “We were able to get down to that part of the field and knew that we needed points going into halftime and we were able to do that.”

The third quarter was dominated by Carroll and it started on a 9-yd pass from Howell to Joseph Holthusen to put the Golden Eagles up 10, at 24-14 with 8:44 to go in the third. Holthusen then caught a 6-yd touchdown pass nearing the end of the quarter to cap a 13-play, 88-yd scoring drive.

Howell sealed the victory with a 3-yd scoring run with 2:12 to go to put the Golden Eagles up 38-21.

“That last touchdown was just the icing on the cake,” Howell said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team this season and all that we went through. I remember in the preseason when we were picked to finish third in the City League and here we are bringing home the state title back to Wichita.”

The Golden Eagles offense led by Howell’s 325 yards passing finished with 474 yards of total yards, while Aquinas finished with 227.

The state title was Carroll’s fourth title in program history, while Aquinas is still without a state championship in program history.