Cavaliers gear up for another run at postseason
By Eric Becker
CARLINVILLE (Aug. 23, 2018) – Carlinville has had a strong 10-year football run under head coach Chad Easterday.
Head coaching year number 11 opens Friday night at home against Hillsboro, and once again, the Cavies have another postseason run on the agenda.
Having made the quarterfinals last year and the state title game two years ago, Carlinville returns key components in an attempt to make sure Friday night and Saturday afternoon games in November remain a reality.
The Cavies were 10-2 last year after a 12-2 run two years ago. Carlinville bounced East Alton-Wood River and St. Teresa in playoff action before running into a hot Pleasant Plains team in the state quarterfinals.
“Our expectation levels are very high,” Easterday said. “We return quite a few significant players from last year that were major contributors on offense and defense.”
The offense will be handed to senior Jarret Easterday, coming off a strong junior season.
J.Easterday completed 182 of 264 passes (68.9 percent) for 2,701 yards with 29 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.
“Anytime you bring back your quarterback and your leading receiver, that’s a good foundation to start to build from,” Easterday said.
The Cavalier receiving corps returns a great deal, including senior Kyle Dixon, who caught 85 passes last year for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdown receptions.
Senior Jake Ambuel caught 32 passes for 481 yards and six scores. Nick Walton returns as well.
Tucker Hughes returns to lead the ground game. Last year, Hughes rushed for a team-high 799 yards on 151 attempts, scoring 12 times.
“Skill-kid wise, we are very blessed to have those people returning and hopefully have some good backups in those rolls as well,” C.Easterday said.
The offensive line returns Blaze Ballowe, Jordan Bressler, Jonathan Stilwell. Cyler McClain, coming off an injury, returns this year. Alex Dawson and Will Kincaid also provide some experience returning.
One of the top moments last year was Dixon’s four-interception game at St. Teresa in the second round of the playoffs. He finished with seven picks on the season.
Ambuel also returns in the secondary at safety, with Walton and Collin Gibbel back as corners.
Colton DeLong, and Ramay Lewis are being looked upon replacing key seniors at the inside linebacker position.
Along with the offensive lineman listed above, Logan Rosentreter will add to the defensive line depth, along with Reid Kleeman and Chase Lawless.
“On paper people don’t view us as very deep, but we are one and a half time people so we have a lot of people who are doubling over in spots but only playing half time, so we feel very confident about those things,” C.Easterday said.
While practice started August 6, there’s always the excitement of getting closer to that first taste of actual game action, which happens when Hillsboro comes a calling Friday night. Especially with a veteran team returning.
“The expectation level to get to that first game gets here a little quicker because they have some veteran parts to them that make them more interesting to them,” C.Easterday said. “It’s harder for us – we have to put them in game-like situations in practice because the learning curve for them is so much faster because of their experience.”
The Cavaliers head to Gillespie in Week 2 and may or may not have a home game with Litchfield Week 3. Because of low numbers, Litchfield may not field a varsity team, which in all likelihood would mean a forfeit win unless Carlinville can somehow find another opponent.
Pana visits the Cavies week four, then the team travels to Roxana, hosts Southwestern, travels to Vandalia and Staunton and finishes the season hosting Greenville.
The final three teams the Cavies play, along with Pana, will be tough competition in a very good South Central Conference for football.
“You have to prepare for every opponent,” C.Easterday said. “But there’s nothing wrong with having Sweet 16, state semifinal or a state title on your goal list. When you set the bar that high, and push the kids to make sure they’re getting to that maximum potential, that’s what makes the last two years happen.”
The coach feels the players like the pressure of having to live up to past teams finishes.
“I think they like it, I think they perform better when your expectation levels are high.”
As far as the conference, Vandalia, Greenville and Pana have had good traditional programs, C.Easterday said. “Hillsboro is always in the mix – I know they’re really young this year,” C.Easterday said. “Then when you go and talk about a Staunton and Gillespie teams, they were young last year and bringing all those kids back. You can never miscount those types of teams.”
The 2018 Carlinville High School varsity football team includes, front row, from left, Cole Tapscott, Joshua Welsh, Chase Michaelis, Levi Perkins, Evan Bethard, T.J. Sims, Anthony Joiner, Aidan Tosh, Riley Rouse, Jeff Nejmanowski and Devon Passalacqua; middle row, Lonny Rosentreter, Dylan Cunningham, Will Kincaid, Chase Lawless, Rayme Lewis, Tucker Hughes, Jordan Bressler, assistant coach Mike Morrison, assistant coach Ryan Tosh, assistant coach Don Borgini, assistant coach Ken Garrison, head coach Chad Easterday, assistant coach Quinn Steiner, assistant coach Alan Cooper, assistant coach Mike Bolomey, assistant coach John Reels, Michael Byots, Colton DeLong, Christian Griffith, Aidan Naugle, J.D. Byots, Joe Lewis, and Tyler Reels; back row, Zack Reed, Jack Kessinger, Matt Schmidt, Clay Crowe, Hunter Robinson, Reid Kleeman, Collin Gibbel, Alex Dawson, Jake Ambuel, Blaze Ballowe, Jarret Easterday, Kyle Dixon, Nick Walton, Ethan Wallace, Cyler McClain, Will Walton, Jonathan Stilwell, Logan Rosentreter, Jeffrey Stufflebean, Richard Campbell and Lane Stinnett. Not pictured is Cole Combs.