Cavaliers ice down Oilers in first round of 3A state playoffs

Cavaliers ice down Oilers in first round of

Carlinville wins eighth straight game against East Alton-Wood River

By Jackson Wilson

For the third consecutive season, the Carlinville Cavaliers faced off against the East Alton-Wood River Oilers in the first round of the Illinois High School Association football playoffs at Carlinville High School. Despite a slow start, the Cavaliers pulled away for the 47-8 win.

“The team handled adversity very well. I thought they really did adjustments at halftime and applied them to the second half,” said Carlinville head coach Chad Easterday. “It didn’t cross my mind more than us just going back to work and doing what we do. Having that philosophy throughout the first nine weeks helped and we didn’t panic – which I was very pleased with.”

At the start, Carlinville was in for an unpleasant surprise. The Oilers won the coin toss and elected to attempt an onside kick right out of the gates. The Cavaliers were given a taste of their own medicine – the same type of pressure that they had bestowed onto Greenville the previous weekend. East Alton-Wood River came away with the football after a perfectly placed kick, setting up solid field position at the Carlinville 47-yard line.

Due to struggles passing the football, the Oilers had to generate the main flow of their offense on the ground. Damien Wiseman and Ryan Dawson put together a couple of solid carries to get the Oilers inside the Carlinville 30. The Cavaliers’ defense tightened up after that and forced a turnover on downs at the 27.

Jarret Easterday immediately took a shot down field and completed a 40 yard pass to Will Walton on the Cavies’ first offensive play of the game. After Carlinville moved the ball into the East Alton Wood-River red zone, Easterday connected with Jake Ambuel for an 18-yard strike, setting up first and goal at the 2. Ethan Wallace fumbled the football but recovered at the 7. On second and goal, Kyle Dixon reeled in an Easterday pass in the left corner of the end zone but couldn’t keep his feet in bounds. The third time was the charm. Easterday flipped the football back to Ambuel, who took it into the end zone for the opening touchdown. A successful two-point conversion by Easterday to Dixon made it 8-0 Carlinville with 4:41 left in the first quarter.

Both defenses tightened up throughout the remainder of the quarter. The Oilers recovered a Carlinville onside kick at their own 27. On 3rd and 11, Kenny Beachum completed his only pass of the entire game – a ball that deflected off the hands of Dawson and into the arms of Will Keith for a 20 yard gain. The Cavaliers quickly avenged this tough break and forced a fumble at midfield. Easterday was able to pick up a first down on a quarterback keeper but was later picked off by Shawn McKee, who returned the ball back to midfield. This was just Easterday’s second interception of the season.

Carlinville’s defense continued to be a massive thorn in its opponent’s side. Logan Rosentreter came flying through the Oilers’ offensive line for two huge tackles in a row, including one for a four-yard loss to end the first quarter. East Alton-Wood River was forced to punt after a three and out.

The Cavaliers were hit with a false start penalty on the first play of the next drive and had to start on their own 38 after a five yard loss. Ambuel caught a lateral pass from Easterday but was hit immediately behind the line of scrimmage. C. Easterday decided to take a timeout on 2nd and 18. Two plays later, the offensive monster was released from its cage. Dixon broke free from the Oilers’ double coverage and reeled in an Easterday Hail Mary pass for a 63 yard “over the shoulder” touchdown catch. The two point conversion failed, but the Cavaliers had a two-score lead of 14-0 just over a minute into the second quarter.

Despite giving the Oilers good field position at midfield on the onside kick, the Cavaliers’ defense quickly forced another three and out. Unfortunately, too many players were on the field for Carlinville during the East Alton-Wood River punt attempt. The five yard penalty made it 4th and 3, which influenced Oilers’ head coach Garry Herron to go for the first down instead. Wiseman broke the plane of the line of scrimmage with a clutch five-yard rush. With a fresh set of downs, the Oilers decided to take a risk through the air. Carlinville brought an all-out blitz and forced Beachum to throw an ill-advised pass right into the hands of Nick Walton for an interception.

The Oilers’ defense refused to let the game slip away. Colton DeLong lost the football on a third down carry and surrendered the football back to East Alton-Wood River at the Carlinville 39-yard line. The Cavaliers held the Oilers to another three and out that was assisted by an illegal block penalty. A solid punt by Dawson pinned the Cavaliers inside their own 10-yard line.

The Carlinville offensive line started to feel the effects of playoff pressure on the next play. A bad snap over the head of Easterday resulted in an East Alton-Wood River safety that cut the lead to 14-2 with two minutes to go in the half.

A 56-yard free kick by Easterday gave East Alton-Wood River possession of the ball at its own 32. The Oilers worked quickly and managed to get the football within striking distance of the end zone at the Cavaliers’ 31-yard line. In the closing seconds of the half, N. Walton broke up a flea flicker Hail Mary pass attempt that was double covered at the front left corner of the end zone. On the last play, the Oilers attempted another pass only to have it batted down by Ambuel.

The Oilers were given another opportunity to cut into the deficit as they received the second half kickoff. On 4th and 2 at midfield, Wiseman kept the drive alive for East Alton-Wood River with a three-yard rush to the Carlinville 46. Dawson quieted the Cavalier faithful on the next play, breaking loose down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown run. The Cavaliers came away with a defensive stop on the two-point conversion, but the crowd was still stunned. The underdog Oilers were only trailing 14-8 with 9:50 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Just when it looked like everything was going downhill, Ethan Wallace restored the energy and momentum by taking the Cavaliers from their own 44 to down inside the Oilers’ 10-yard line on just four carries. Wallace led the Cavies with 86 total rushing yards.

After an Oilers’ penalty made it first and goal at the 6, Dixon hauled in a pass from Easterday at the goal line and then punched the football into the end zone on a running play. Schmidt came on for his first extra point attempt of the night but was blocked on a low kick. Carlinville was back in control of the game, 20-8 with just over six minutes left in the third.

“[In the first half] the game was kind of going at a slow pace and we hadn’t had as many big plays that we were accustomed to during the regular season. In the second half we started to bring out the big plays and that really helped our offense a lot,” Dixon said.

The Cavaliers had all the momentum back on their side which caused frustration to kick in for the Oilers. Three consecutive unsportsmanlike penalties moved East Alton-Wood River from its own 48 all the way down to the 11-yard line. On 4th and 47, the Oilers had no choice but to attempt another punt out of desperation. A bad snap chased Dawson into his own end zone. He managed to escape from a safety but was only able to move the ball out to the five-yard line.

Wallace rushed into the end zone for his first touchdown of the game and gave Carlinville its biggest lead of the game. Schmidt avenged his earlier miss and nailed the extra point to make it 27-8.

With their running game virtually shut down and their passing game undercooked, the Oilers’ offense was completely out of answers. Dawson punted the football back to the Cavies after another three and out. A penalty moved Carlinville back five extra yards to their 30-yard line but Easterday quickly made up for it with a 70-yard touchdown pass to DeLong. Schmidt buried the extra point. The game was now seemingly out of reach with Carlinville leading 34-8 late in the third quarter.

The Oilers finished the third quarter strong with a 52-yard kickoff return by Dawson but were forced to turn the ball over on downs after a failed fourth down conversion at the Carlinville 22.

Easterday stayed hot heading down the final stretch of the game. He hit Dixon for a 15-yard first down catch, Walton for a 23-yard completion and dropped another dime into the hands of Dixon for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Schmidt missed his second extra point of the game but a 40-8 lead in the final ten minutes made it very difficult for him to hang his head.

Easterday added a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ambuel with 2:26 left in the game. Schmidt finished with three successful extra points in five attempts as he made it 47-8.

Easterday posted five touchdowns and 337 total yards while completing 15 of his 17 pass attempts. Dixon had 116 yards through the air and led the team with two receiving touchdowns along with Ambuel. The Cavaliers outscored the Oilers 33-6 in the second half. All 33 points were unanswered.

“The more time your offense is on the field, the more time you can figure out what’s working. That’s what we did in the second half and it showed on the scoreboard,” said J. Easterday. “My five offensive lineman up front did a great job blocking. They gave me all the time in the world and my receivers were running great routes. They made my job easy.”

The Cavaliers improve to 10-0 with the win. Carlinville raises its all-time record against East Alton-Wood River to 13-5. The Oilers have now lost to the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive years (76-19 in 2016 and 52-19 in 2017). The Cavies will travel to Paxton on Saturday to face the tenth-seeded Panthers of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School in the second round of the Illinois High School Association’s Class 3A state playoffs at 2 p.m. Paxton-Buckley-Loda upset the seven-seeded Vandalia Vandals 33-6 in Vandalia last Saturday. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the 1993 Class 2A Semifinal. Carlinville advanced to the state championship game with a 20-18 victory.

Colton DeLong claims some turf for the Cavies in their playoff win over the Oilers. Photo by Jan Dona.

Ethan Wallace grabs a pitch from quarterback Jarrett Easterday in the Cavies’ win over EAWR in the opening round of the IHSA Class 3A playoffs Oct. 26. Photo by Jan Dona.