Cavies survive Bulldogs
By Eric Becker
DECATUR (Nov. 9, 2017) – It was an overcast, dreary day for football at Decatur St. Teresa Saturday afternoon and a second round IHSA Class 3A state football playoff, but the game was anything but dreary. There were more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose.
Kyle Dixon had 26.7 percent of his catches Saturday on defense with four interceptions, and a late touchdown reception from Donovan King helped the Cavies escape with a 40-36 win over St. Teresa.
The Cavaliers (10-1) will now host Pleasant Plains (8-3) 2 p.m. Saturday in the state quarterfinals. Plains outlasted Newton 29-27 last Saturday.
“I thought both teams’ emotional highs and lows of the game were phenomenal,” Carlinville head coach Chad Easterday said. “Both on their sidelines and ours. We just happened to have more points at the end of the day than they did.”
Tucker Hughes picked up the rushing slack in the second half and the Cavies more than doubled the Bulldogs in total yards, while shutting down the rushing game of St. Teresa. The Cavies defense stymied Division I prospect Jacardia Wright to just 56 yards rushing on 21 carries after returning the game’s opening kickoff back for a touchdown.
“It was a hard-fought battle on both sides,” Hughes said after the game. “Just a great football game and we ended up on top.”
Carlinville was called for an infraction on the opening kickoff, thus re-kicked, and Wright placed the initial stamp on the game with a 76-yard return for a touchdown, eluding a couple of tacklers after receiving the kickoff.
It was a 7-0 Bulldog game when they got the ball back on downs. But Dixon intercepted the first of his passes, picking off Jack Hogan and returning it some 40 yards to the 13 yard-line of St. Teresa.
Add on to the return a personal foul penalty, and the Cavies had first and goal at the St. T. seven. Three plays later, Colton DeLong scored from a yard out and the game was tied with 6:29 left in the opening quarter.
Carlinville then recovered an onsides kick, but were forced to punt, leading to a second Bulldog special teams touchdown.
John Bryles blocked and returned the punt 50 yards for a St. Teresa touchdown, giving the hosts a 14-7 lead at 5:31 of the opening quarter.
Carlinville came right back. Jarret Easterday completed all five of his passes on the next drive, including a 30-yarder to Josh Hinzman and a nine-yard touchdown strike to Jake Ambuel. It was 14-14 after one crazy quarter.
The game settled in for most of the second quarter. St. Teresa took advantage of a tipped interception and drove 37 yards to regain the lead on a Hogan to Michael Less nine-yard touchdown pass. It was 21-14 St. T with 2:23 left in the half.
The Cavaliers got an 18-yard run from Ethan Wallace on the next possession. Easterday completed four short passes and set up a 33-yard touchdown pass to Dixon. A missed PAT left the score 21-20 St. Teresa at the half.
Given the magnitude of the situation and the level of competition, the third quarter may have been the most solid quarter all season for the Cavaliers.
Taking the opening kickoff, the Cavies drove 71 yards. Hughes opened the drive with a 48-yard run, and capped it with runs of 3, 19, 4 and a five-yard touchdown to make it 26-21 Carlinville. It was the Cavies first lead of the day with
Wright, held to 32 yards in the first half, had one touch on the Bulldogs first possession for negative one yard before Dixon’s second interception of the game gave the Cavies the ball back.
Dixon would haul in a 21-yard reception, then capped a 40-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown reception after the Bulldogs got called for a personal foul assessed on their bench.
Again, Wright was caught for a four-yard loss on the next St. Teresa possession, and Dixon completed the hat trick with his third interception of the game and second of the quarter with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
“Kyle is Kyle – we say that all the time,” C.Easterday said. “I think people take him for granted but his athletic ability and to be able to cover from numbers to numbers on the field is something you don’t get everyday.”
Carlinville drove down to the 25-yard line but was held on downs. St. Teresa tried some trickery, as Tyler Phillips took a handoff and tried to throw down the right sideline…and just so-happened Dixon was covering the receiver and went up for his fourth interception of the game and third of the quarter.
“It comes from watching film, knowing what plays they run,” Dixon said on his four-interception day. “They kept running the same plays over and over and I read it and got in the right place.”
The Cavies had all the momentum entering the fourth quarter, but St. Teresa put together a 90-yard drive eating up nearly five minutes stretching into the fourth quarter.
The 14-play drive ended on a Hogan to Joey Staab 25-yard touchdown to make the score 33-28 with 8:21 left in the game.
The Cavaliers then fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs moments later, and St. Teresa would capitalize by regaining the lead.
Needing just two plays, Hogan connected with Less on a 36-yard touchdown reception. St. Teresa 36, Carlinville 33 with 6:08 to play after a two-point conversion.
The Cavies embarked on a season-saving 61-yard touchdown drive that ate up over four and a half minutes of clock.
“We practice it all the time – not the two-minute drill, but the no-panic drill,” C.Easterday said. “Nobody panicked on our sideline. Very proud of our kids composure.”
They converted all four third-down conversions on the drive, methodically driving down field with short runs and short passes. Hughes was injured midway through the drive on a big hit in the middle of the field. He left for a couple of plays but returned to help finish what he helped start.
After being called for an offsides just one play earlier, Donovan King stepped up with the latest hero by hauling in a 15-yard touchdown reception from Easterday.
“Coach prepares us for any situation possible,” Hughes said. “We could be down a score and we have to get a touchdown in a minute or something. We are well-prepared for those situations.”
With 1:27 left, the Cavaliers led 40-36, but a short kick gave St. Teresa ideal field position at its own 48-yard line.
Hogan’s first pass was incomplete. His second was caught by Wright, who was tackled in the backfield for a three-yard loss.
Trying some trickery, CHS’ Max Rogers stopped Phillips in the backfield for a six-yard loss, setting up a fourth and 19 situation.
The Bulldogs appeared as if they were going to try the hook-and-ladder play, but the St. Teresa receiver forgot to catch the ball on fourth down, and Carlinville had earned its first road playoff win of the season.
Easterday completed 24 of 35 passes for 249 yards and four scores for Carlinville. Hughes rushed 27 times for 140 yards and a score.
Dixon caught 11 passes on offense for 122 yards and two scores. Hinzman had two catches for 58 yards and King had four catches for 45 yards and the final touchdown.
Hogan completed eight of 17 passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns, but also had three picks.
There were six turnovers in the game, four by St. Teresa. The Cavies had a 27-12 edge in first downs and made eight of 16 third-down conversions. The Cavaliers had 10 penalties for 75 yards; St. Teresa had seven for 63 yards.
But stopping Wright’s potent ground attack may have been the biggest key of them all.
“He’s a really good back,” Dixon said. “It’s a big test to come in here and stop him. You don’t really stop him, you contain him and that’s what we did today.”
“Mr. Wright is everything and more,” C.Easterday said. “Took the opening kickoff back obviously, but I was very proud of our kids – we had a fumble and miscues and we overcame those things.”