Season in Review: 2018 Carlinville Football Cavaliers
By Jackson Wilson
After falling short to Elmhurst Immaculate Conception Catholic in the 2016 Illinois High School Class 3A state championship, unfinished business became the ultimate mindset for one of the South Central Conference’s most successful football programs. The Carlinville Cavaliers had placed every piece of the puzzle into place, except the biggest one – winning a state title.
In 2017, the Cavies finished 8-1 and made it back to the state quarterfinal only to have their hearts broken with an overtime loss to Pleasant Plains in their own backyard. Once again, a run that most teams would’ve referred to as more than a success left a ton of non-satisfaction and a feeling of emptiness throughout the entire Carlinville community – fans, coaches and the players.
As 2018 came about, the Cavaliers welcomed 18 players back for their senior season, including special talents and new team captains in Jarrett Easterday, Kyle Dixon and Blaze Ballowe. In addition, Carlinville had a major sense of balance on both sides of the ball that would prove to be very dangerous – such as Logan Rosentreter’s size on the defensive line, Jake Ambuel and Colton DeLong’s agility and quickness playing alongside Dixon in the wide reciever slot, the Walton brothers (Nick and Will), Matt Schmidt’s amazing kicking ability and a solid senior running back duo in Ethan Wallace and Tucker Hughes. The list of weapons was endless.
The regular season was a historic run for the ages that consisted of a daily dose of dominance on a weekly basis, including a 64-28 road win against a state-ranked Vandalia team, a 49-12 statement over powerhouse Pana, a 42-0 spoiling of an arch-rival’s senior night in Staunton and a 66-0 redemption statement over Greenville – a team that had beaten Carlinville the previous year. The Cavaliers finished 9-0 for the first time since 2001 and clinched their first outright conference title since 2007. They were ranked second in the end of season state poll and were awarded the second overall seed in the Class 3A 16-team south bracket.
For the third consecutive season, the Cavaliers gave an unpleasant welcome to the Oilers of East-Alton Wood River in the opening round with a 47-8 victory. The momentum continued into next week. By rule of the Illinois High School Association, Carlinville was forced to make a 250-mile round trip in order to return to the state quarterfinal. They seized the day once again and cruised to a 40-7 win against the Paxton-Buckley-Loda Panthers. The state quarterfinal brought with it something that the Cavaliers had never experienced all season long – a competitive football game that was going to take four full quarters of solid play to pull off. For the second time in three years, Carlinville knocked Sangamo Conference powerhouse Williamsville out of the playoffs with a 35-21 triumph and was now one win away from returning to Champaign for its fourth state championship appearance. Unfortunately, the top-seeded Monticello Sages were fully prepared for the challenge that the Cavies were going to bring to their home turf. An unforgiving road environment, muddy field, cold weather and a red-hot opponent proved to be too much for Carlinville to handle. Monticello punched its first ever ticket to a state championship game with a 40-14 onslaught and later defeated Byron 24-20 for the title. The Cavaliers finished the season with a record of 12-1.This was the second time this fall that a Carlinville sport team’s season ended at the hands of an eventual state champion – the first being a 7-0 loss to Quincy Notre Dame in the Illinois High School Association Class 1A soccer regional finals on Oct. 12.
Carlinville has won 42 football games over the past four years, reached three consecutive state quarterfinals, appeared in two state semifinals and recieved a state runner-up finish over that span.
Easterday completed 441 career passes for a grand total of 83 touchdowns and over 6,700 yards – all of which rank in the top 20 in Illinois state history. Easterday saved his best for last and passed for over 3,200 yards and 44 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions throughout his senior season – the most efficient performance by any Carlinville quarterback.
Dixon also etched his name into the Illinois state record books. Offensively, he caught 179 passes for 2,930 yards and 36 touchdowns throughout his high school journey. Defensively, he came away with 20 interceptions. All stats rank in the state’s all-time top 15. As a result, Dixon was put into the conversation of potentially being the best overall individual in the entire 3A class. He scored 32 touchdowns in his senior season – 21 on receptions, four on rushes, three off interceptions, three on punt returns and one on a kickoff.
Easterday, Dixon, Ballowe, Ambuel, DeLong, Schmidt, Rosentreter, Wallace, Hughes, N. Walton, Rayme Lewis, Cyler McClain and Jonathon Stilwell made up the 13 Cavaliers that were selected as members of the 2018 South Central all-conference team.
With high standards and an unforgettable legacy set for the future, Carlinville bid farewell to one of its most accomplished group of seniors – Easterday, Dixon, Ballowe, Ambuel, Schmidt, N. Walton, W. Walton, Wallace, Hughes, Rosentreter, McClain, Stilwell, Jordan Bressler, Will Kincaid, Ryan Cook, Alex Davis, Collin Gibbel and Chase Lawless.