By Eric Becker
CARLINVILLE (Nov. 16, 2017) – Count Carlinville head football coach Chad Easterday among those who think Pleasant Plains is one of the best three-loss teams in the state.
The Cardinals defeated the Cavaliers 20-14 in overtime Saturday in the Cavies’ first ever home quarterfinal playoff game.
Plains (9-3) advances to the state semifinals at home against Anna-Jonesboro next week. The Cardinals are one of three teams still playing in the state semifinals from the Sangamo Conference, and previously unbeaten Williamsville isn’t one of them, showing how strong of a conference it was in 2017.
“Hats off to Plains, I thought they did a great job today,” said Carlinville coach Chad Easterday. “My hats off to them and I wish them the best of luck.”
For Carlinville (10-2), the game also featured a scary injury midway through the fourth quarter. Tucker Hughes ran into a defensive lineman or one of his own blockers and went straight down on a pass reception that gained a yard.
Obviously knocked out, Hughes remained on the ground for several minutes while trainers tended to him. He was eventually taken by ambulance to an area hospital, diagnosed with a concussion, and was later released from the hospital on Saturday night.
“Football injures happen all the time, but our hearts are with Tucker right now,” said C.Easterday.
While that did not win or lose the game, it seemed to take a lot of the energy out of the atmosphere as the Cavies were attempting to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
The Cardinals’ Nik Samson intercepted a pass at the goal line on the third play of overtime, giving the visitors the needed momentum boost.
Two plays later, Kai Carlberg scored from four yards out which sent the Cardinals into the semifinals.
“I was very impressed with their athleticism and speed on defense,” C.Easterday said. “They’re the best 6-3 team that I’ve seen in a long time.”
Carlinville opened the game with the ball, picking up a pair of first downs on pass plays but losing the ball on downs at the Plains 45-yard line.
A fumble recovery by Kyle Dixon at the Cavies 40-yard line gave Carlinville the ball back, but they went three and out.
Carlinville got as close as the 23-yard line on the next drive, but turned the ball over on downs. Eventually, it was a scoreless game after one quarter.
Plains used a 66-yard punt by Carlberg to put the ball at the Cavalier 19-yard line.
CHS went on an 81-yard scoring drive to break the scoreless game.
Jarret Easterday completed a 33-yard pass to Donovan King and Tucker followed with a 15-yard run.
Colton DeLong picked up two yards for a first down on a fourth and one play to keep the drive going, which ended on Hughes’ two-yard scamper to make it 6-0. Carlinville went for two and did not succeed.
The Cavies got the ball back but the Cardinals got their first break by recovering a botched handoff by the Cavies. The turnover gave Plains the ball at the Cavalier-18 yard line.
Five run plays resulted in Carlberg’s three-yard touchdown and subsequent extra point to make it 7-6 Cardinals.
After coming up with an A.J. Chapman interception late in the first half, the Cavies attempted a 42-yard field goal by Tucker at the first-half gun. The kick was on target but a few yard short, and the game remained 7-6 at the half.
“The whole pace of the game was up and down,” C.Easterday said. “They had a few errors, we had a few errors and weren’t able to capitalize on those types of things. When you do that, it’s the difference in the game.”
Plains took the second half kickoff, got a gift first down on a penalty, then connected on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Ben Reinert to Carlberg. It was 14-6 with 10:09 left in the third.
The teams exchanged punts. Carlinville got the ball at the Plains’ 38-yard line. After a holding penalty, J.Easterday threw deep to Josh Hinzman, whose 48-yard touchdown reception made it 14-12.
The Cavies went for two and made it as Hughes got the two-point run. It was all square 14-14 with 4:47 to play in the third quarter.
The game eventually found its way to the fourth quarter tied, as the Cardinals drove down but had to punt the ball.
On the next possession, the Cavies were driving when the injury to Hughes took place. After the delay, a sack followed and the Cavaliers were forced to punt.
“I thought we performed well (after the injury),” Easterday said. “We gave up the fourth down but held. Had a chance to win it, but the kid made a great athletic play.”
Jordan Bressler’s sack of Reinart on a third down play led to the Cardinals punting the ball.
With 39 seconds left, the Cavies had the ball at its own 44-yard line, but elected to play overtime instead of making a run toward the go-ahead score.
“In order to get 65 yards in 58 seconds in a prevent situation, we’d had some pass protection issues to go along with already,” C.Easterday said. “We felt playing in overtime was statistically the best opportunity to win on a short field.”
Carlinville outgained Pleasant Plains 307-212 in total yardage. J.Easterday completed 18 of 25 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Hughes rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries. Hinzman had three catches for 83 yards and Dixon had seven catches for 64 yards.
Samson rushed for 72 yards on 21 attempts for Pleasant Plains. Reinert completed seven of 22 passes for 100 yards with a touchdown and interception. Carlberg had two catches for 64 yards and a score and 35 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
“Very proud of our kids and the expectations they had for the season,” C.Easterday said. “Back-to-back (quarterfinals) is good for our program. Obviously it hurts today, but maybe it will be better tomorrow.”
Carlinville’s Jordan Bressler makes a sack of Plains quarterback Ben Reinert late in the fourth quarter, also pursued on the play by Gabe Long, which led to a punt and eventually overtime. The Cavies lost 20-14 to the Cardinals in an extra period. Photo/Eric Becker
Donovan King of Carlinville gains extra yardage after a first quarter reception Saturday against Pleasant Plains.