Friday Football Preview: South, Carroll Collide in Semifinals
Mike Hammett - Fri 06:49 AM 11/16/2012
For extended pregame coverage, listen to Inside High School Football, beginning at 6pm on SportsRadio 1150 KSAL.
Salina South Cougars (10-1) at Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles (11-0)
Class 5A state semifinal
Salina South Pregame 6:50pm. Kickoff 7:00pm
Play-by-play: Mike Hammett.
Analysts: Barry Cairns and Justin Dean.
Sideline reporter: Todd Pittenger.
A rematch a year in the making happens tonight in Wichita, as Salina South returns to Bishop Carroll to face the Golden Eagles.
This year, there’s much more on the line. Not only is it a state semifinal, but some are calling Carroll and South the two best teams in the state.
Last year, Carroll ended Salina South’s season in the first round of the playoffs in an epic game, where Carroll pulled away in the end for a 24-7 win over the Cougars.
Last year, South quarterback Christian Linenberger was knocked out of the game early with an injury, and Justin Stonebraker saw the first significant varsity action of his career.
Many pieces of the South defense are back from that team, and a few key cogs of the offense will see Carroll for a second time as well, including running backs Cody Busby and Mike Jones.
There’s a lot of familiar faces back for Carroll as well. Quarterback Zeke Palmer has been unreal, completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,935 yards, 18 touchdowns and just one interception. His favorite target is Matt Denning, who has 42 catches for 634 yards and 12 of the 18 touchdowns.
But the Cougars can’t focus too much on Denning. A total of 10 players are a threat to catch a pass from Palmer at some point in the game, including second leading receiver Johnny Armstrong, or do-everything guy Denzel Goolsby.
What makes Carroll’s passing game even scarier is the focus the Golden Eagles have placed on the running game this year. Senior Jalen Hernandez will get the start at running back, but will split time with junior Tory Smith. The two have combined for 29 rushing touchdowns this year. Goolsby has 8 rushing touchdowns, while Palmer has added 12 of his own. In fact, the Carroll offense has scored 73 touchdowns this season, with 55 of those on the ground.
And don’t forget about the Carroll defense, which has given up 20 points or more just once this season, and has a knack for scoring touchdowns on their own, racking up eight defensive scores this season, including three by cornerback Anthony Troilo.
Another unusual stat for the Carroll defense: the leading tackler is a defensive tackle. Zach Befort leads the team with 66 tackles, but a third of those have been in the backfield.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to next Saturday’s state championship game in Emporia at Emporia State University’s Welch Stadium. St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege meet tonight in the other semifinal.