Cavaliers weather storm, get past Shells in football opener

Cavaliers weather storm, get past Shells in football

The Carlinville Cavaliers join in the school fight song following their 21-14 victory against the Roxana Shells Saturday afternoon. Enquirer Democrat Photo by Jackson Wilson.

Carlinville JFL walks away

empty-handed

By JACKSON WILSON

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

After having their 1,000th varsity game washed away by rain, the Carlinville football Cavaliers kicked off the 2019 season with a hard-fought 21-14 road victory over a much-improved Roxana Shells team Saturday afternoon. Carlinville has now won 16 consecutive football contests against Roxana.

“They’re a scary team,” Carlinville head coach Chad Easterday said. “What I mean by scary is that when you have a coaching staff like theirs that is working like ours is. They have a lot of great players coming around, they’re dangerous and we didn’t really help ourselves today. I was a bit afraid of that kind of combination coming out of the gate being green, but we were able to survive and get the win.”

Colton DeLong led the way for the Cavies, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in his senior debut.

“I knew what was expected of me coming into the year and I was prepared,” DeLong said. “We had some flub-ups with it being Week 1 but we’re going to get way better off of this.”

Carlinville also got an offensive spark from Jahraven Johnson, who caught eight of Michael Byots’ 11 completed passes for a team-leading 84 receiving yards.

“I was just glad to be back playing football again,” Johnson said. “I felt great out there individually, but as long as my teammates get it going every single game this season, that’s all that matters.”

It was very uncommon for the Cavaliers to have four turnovers, but the defense was resilient and wouldn’t let the Shells pull the upset.

Captain Rayme Lewis made 13 tackles including two for a loss and a sack. Chase Michaelis added nine tackles and recovered a fumble.

“Obviously, having two returning linebackers was a staple for us on that side of the ball,” Easterday said of Lewis and Michaelis. “I thought they stepped up like true veterans today. We had some corners that gave up a big play, but I thought those two individually kept things under control. They stayed the course and that’s what we expected of them.”

The Cavaliers won the coin toss but elected to send the Shells’ offense onto the field first. Roxana took advantage of the opportunity and struck first on a 25-yard touchdown run by David Pluester. Logan Wonders converted the extra point to make it 7-0 five minutes into the game.

Beginning at his own 45 yard line, Byots led the Cavalier offense onto the field as a varsity starter for the first time. The senior quarterback was unfazed by the pressure and executed a slant pass to Johnson, who advanced the ball from the Carlinville 48 to the Roxana 43-yard line following a Shells’ kicking penalty. DeLong carried the ball eight yards and Byots connected with Johnson again – this time for a 13-yard gain. The Cavies worked their way inside the 10, but a high snap pushed the ball back seven yards on second and goal. Byots and Johnson were able to move the ball inside the five on the next play, but DeLong was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a fourth down carry up the gut.

The Carlinville defense forced a quick three-and-out to end the quarter, but collapsed on a bad snap into the Roxana end zone. Instead of bringing Parris White down for a safety, the Cavies allowed the Shell junior to advance the ball to the Roxana 17 for a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, White broke free from coverage again and was in the clear for a hail mary touchdown. Carlinville caught a huge break when Roxana quarterback Gavin Huffman put too much mustard on the pass. This miscue came back to bite the Shells on the next play. The Cavies forced a fumble and T.J. Sims recovered at the Roxana 15.

With 11:10 to go in the second quarter, DeLong thundered up the middle and scored the equalizing touchdown. Lonny Rosentreter, who went on to convert all three of his attempts, tied the game at seven with his first successful varsity kick through the uprights.

Huffman redeemed himself in a big way on the Shells’ next drive. He avoided a sack from four Cavaliers and hurled a ball 38 yards to Michael Ilch at the Carlinville 25. A Roxana penalty pushed the ball back five yards, but the Shells kept their composure. Pressured again by a blitz and completely off-balance, Huffman tossed a 29-yard lob pass into the waiting arms of White near the far right corner of the end zone. The Shells regained the lead 14-7 with 9:25 to go in the first half.

DeLong added 12 more rushing yards to his statline and advanced the ball past midfield. Then, Bobby Seal kept the line moving deeper into Roxana territory with a nine-yard carry, allowing DeLong to trigger another first down. Byots threw an incomplete pass but carried the ball down to the Roxana 20 on a quarterback keeper two plays later. DeLong kept the drive going, converting fourth and one at the Shells’ 20. Seal danced his way to the six and DeLong concluded another scoring drive with his second rushing touchdown of the day. With the score knotted at 14-14, both defenses held for the remainder of the half.

Carlinville started the second half with an offensive hiccup. Dustin Roberts shifted the momentum back in Roxana’s favor with a fumble. However, the defense was ready to do whatever it took to keep the game tied. In addition to forcing three consecutive incomplete throws from Huffman, the Cavies forced the Shells to break down mentally and lose five yards on a false start.

A perfectly-executed punt placed Carlinville deep in its own territory, but DeLong gave the offensive line some breathing room after getting a first down off of three carries. Then, Byots linked up with Johnson and moved the chains to midfield. Johnson and Joe Lewis followed with minor gains off catches, setting up rushes from Byots and DeLong for more first down yardage. Seal carried the ball to the Roxana 20 on an eight-yard rush and later scored the go-ahead touchdown after J. Lewis drew a pass interference penalty. Despite a low snap, Rosentreter was able to stay focused and kick the extra point through once again. The Cavies had the lead 21-14 with 3:28 to go in the third.

Trailing for the first time in  the game, the Shells started to feel the heat. Zack Reed came flying through the defensive line and hammered Huffman for a major loss. Roxana went on to lose seven more yards on the next play. The Shells had no choice but to punt again on fourth down.

The Cavies started the fourth quarter with another consistent push beyond the Roxana battle lines, but Seal took a big hit  in the red zone and lost possession of the football. The Shells recovered at their own 18.

Hope was restored with 9:16 to play, but Carlinville kept Roxana off the scoreboard for the entire second half and was able to hold on for the win. The final minutes were highlighted by a forced fumble courtesy of R. Lewis and Colton Robinson. Michealis recovered the loose ball for the Cavies.

Carlinville burned three minutes off the clock on its last offensive trip and R. Lewis put the sealed the win with one last sack of Huffman.

The Cavies will host Vandalia in their home opener at Carlinville High School next Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Junior Football League

The Carlinville and Roxana JFL teams squared off later in the day. The Cavies were outscored 56-6 in the fifth and sixth grade jamboree.

The seventh and eighth grade games were  evenly matched throughout.

The seventh grade Cavies got a rushing touchdown from Noah Byots, but the Carlinville quarterback threw two pick-sixes – including one during the closing seconds. Roxana came out on top, 16-8.

The eighth grade team had several opportunities to get over the hump, but the Jr. Shells’ defense stopped the Cavies at the goal line twice in a 14-8 victory. Jack Rouse scored the lone touchdown for Carlinville.

The JFL Cavies will host Staunton next Saturday. Game times are listed below.

Fifth and sixth grade jamboree – 10 a.m.

Seventh grade – 11:30 a.m.

Eighth grade – 1:30 p.m.