Dixon leads Cavaliers to senior night smashing of
Carlinville clinches first outright
conference title since 2007 and first undefeated regular season since 2001
By Jackson Wilson
There may have been some hype that the Greenville Comets would possibly be able to go into Carlinville and pull off an upset on the Cavaliers’ senior night. However, the Cavies were out to show how much they improved since last year’s 35-28 loss at Greenville. They came away with a 66-0 statement win in front of an estimated attendance of 1,431 fans and propelled their 18 seniors into their last postseason with a huge boost of momentum.
“You have to be careful with the word ‘revenge’,” said Carlinville head coach Chad Easterday. “You hear it a lot, but it wasn’t about revenge. It was about the goals that we had set for ourselves and making sure our practices to obtain those goals happened.”
Carlinville won the coin toss and chose to defer. The Cavaliers attempted an onside kick right out of the gates and forced the Comets to turn the ball over on a fumble at midfield. Two plays later, Kyle Dixon reeled in a 39 yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Easterday to put the Cavaliers ahead. Easterday threw the ball back to Dixon for a successful two-point conversion to make it 8-0 after just 20 seconds of football.
Carlinville continued to perform onside kicks for most of the game. Greenville was able to recover the next attempt at its own 38 yard line. At the start of his night, Comets’ quarterback Wil Harnetiaux was struggling to find a consistent rhythm through the air. He missed on nine of his first 12 pass attempts, including one that he overthrew to Hunter Matthews on the Comets’ first offensive play that would’ve resulted in a 62 yard touchdown. This got the Cavaliers’ attention and the defense quickly adjusted. Harnetiaux attempted a quick slant pass over the middle and was intercepted by Dixon, who returned the ball all the way down to the Greenville 8-yard line. Easterday got great protection on first and goal and found the end zone on a quarterback keeper. Matt Schmidt added his first successful extra point of the night to make it a 15-0 Carlinville lead with 10:28 left in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Greenville was able to move the chains for the first time in the game. Hunter Matthews picked up a first down on a 10-yard carry. Harnetiaux attempted another Hail Mary pass that was broken up, but Dixon was hit with an interference penalty. This moved the Comets into Cavalier territory. On 4th and 3 from the Carlinville 41, Carlinville brought an “all out” blitz and forced Harnetiaux to throw the ball away, surrendering possession.
Colton DeLong sprinted up the gut and broke free from the Greenville defense for a 59 yard touchdown rush immediately after the defensive stand. Schmidt connected on another extra point. The Cavaliers had built a 22-0 lead over a span of just four and a half minutes.
Both defenses forced a three and out on the next drive. Blaze Ballowe sacked Harnetiaux on 3rd and 10 at the Greenville 40, and Dixon reeled in a fair catch at the Carlinville 38. Easterday took a shot down the field to Jake Ambuel on 2nd and 3, but the pass was broken up and nearly intercepted. On third down, DeLong attempted another rush up the middle only to find out that Greenville had locked the door this time. He was tackled at the line of scrimmage, forcing the Cavaliers to punt the ball back to the Comets. A solid kick pinned Greenvill deep in its own territory at the 17-yard line.
Carlinville forced Greenville to a 4th and 1 at the 26. With the game ultimately on the line, Comets’ head coach Todd Hutchinson elected to go for the first down. Matthews barely broke the plane of the line of scrimmage for a successful conversion. Two plays later, Harnetiaux decided to attempt another quick slant pass over the middle. Without warning, Dixon snatched the ball out of the air with one hand and took it to the house for a 45 yard pick six touchdown. Schmidt remained perfect on his extra point attempts, making it 29-0 with 2:39 left in the first.
In the second quarter, Carlinville continued to apply pressure on the defensive side of the ball. Matthews successfully converted another fourth down attempt for the Comets at the Carlinville 33, but it came with a price. He had to leave the game with an injury and was replaced by Jack Woods. Woods converted a fourth down carry of his own but gave possession of the ball back to Carlinville after fumbling due to a big hit in the red zone.
The Cavaliers weren’t intimidated by deep field position. It took them just a minute and a half to put together a 90 yard touchdown drive. Easterday completed a 46 yard pass to Dixon at the Greenville 30, then DeLong scored his second touchdown of the game after back-to-back first down carries. The senior duo of Easterday and Dixon added another two points to the lead, 37-0.
Things continued to get worse for the struggling and ailing Comets. Dixon intercepted Haretiaux for a third time, took it the end zone for another pick-six touchdown and hauled in another two-point conversion pass from Easterday. Carlinville had struck for 16 points in as many seconds. It was a 45-0 game just three minutes into the second quarter.
Three minutes later, Easterday connected with Will Walton for an 88-yard touchdown pass to make it 52-0 with just over six minutes to go in the half. Easterday’s night was over after that. He finished with over 2,000 passing yards for his senior season.
With the game wrapped up heading into the second half, the junior varsity Cavies took over with a running clock to work with. They started off rusty by losing 10 yards on a penalty but Bobby Seal zipped through a small gap in the Greenville defensive line and found the end zone on a 63 yard carry. Hunter Robinson extended the lead once more with a touchdown rush of his own in the fourth quarter. Schmidt converted extra point kicks on both scores.
The Carlinville defense only held Greenville to eight first downs and a total of 143 yards. This was the Cavaliers’ fourth shutout in nine games this season. They have not allowed a point since their 64-28 win at Vandalia on Oct. 5.
Kyle Dixon was the senior night star for the Cavaliers with three interceptions, three touchdowns, 133 defensive return yards and 85 receiving yards on just two catches.
“You just can’t replace him,” C. Easterday said of Dixon. “He amazes me on a nightly basis in both practice and during games. He fits well – he’s humble – he’s those types of things that you would expect out of that type of an athlete. Tonight it showed up on the field in both offense, defense, special teams and everything.”
With the win, Carlinville clinched its first outright South Central Conference title since 2007 and is 9-0 for the first time since 2001. The Cavaliers will stay home to face the Oilers of East-Alton Wood River in the first round of the Illinois High School Association Class 3A playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday.
Senior Will Walton charges through the banner to open the Cavaliers’ game against Greenville. Photos by Cory Walton.