Cavaliers spoil Staunton’s senior night
By Billy Woods
Despite the cold temperatures and light rain Friday night, the Carlinville Cavaliers remained red hot. State ranked Carlinville traveled to Staunton to take on the Bulldogs during their senior night. Both teams battled for 48 minutes through the cold, but it was the Cavaliers that emerged victorious with a 42-0 win.
The Cavaliers won the coin toss and deferred, sending the defense on the field first. Coach Chad Easterday had high praise for the defense, “I believe that our defense is the most underrated part of our team. They have really given us great field position all season. Our opponents have not had long drives all season due to the short field position caused by the defense. That type of pressure helps our offense in the long run throughout the course of a game.”
The defense wasted no time letting their presence be felt. The strong Carlinville defense only allowed five first downs during the whole game, with one of them coming on Staunton’s opening drive. After only seven plays, Staunton was forced to punt. Coming into the game, Staunton knew of the return ability of Kyle Dixon. Most of the game, the Staunton special team’s group did an exceptional job keeping the ball away from the explosive Dixon and not allowing him much space on his returns.
Trotting onto the field was Jarret Easterday and that dangerous offense. By this point, every team in the state of Illinois knows about the week-in and week-out dominance of the Cavaliers offense. But, knowing it and stopping it are two different things. As with every South-Central Conference opponent thus far, the defense was no match for the high energy Carlinville offense, which poured on the points after halftime.
The first drive for Carlinville was a success. With 6:05 to play in the first quarter, Kyle Dixon punched it in the endzone for the first score of the game.
The next seven minutes of game-time was unusual for Carlinville. The Staunton defense was able to hold the offense on the next couple of drives and allow their offense a chance to step up. This is where the Cavaliers defense is underrated. While the offense took some time to blow the game open, the defense didn’t grant Staunton an inch of breathing room. With a penetrating defense led by senior defensive lineman Logan Rosentreter, the Cavaliers only allowed five first downs and 103 yards of total offense.
After the first quarter, Easterday and the offense found their groove. Not even a minute into the second quarter, Colton DeLong ran it in from the two-yard line, giving Carlinville a 14-0 lead. After a Staunton punt, the Cavaliers began their second drive of the quarter on their 20-yard line. After a series of pass plays, Ethan Wallace punched in the touchdown from eight yards out with 6:24 remaining in the half. The score was 21-0 going into halftime.
The third quarter was where the rest of the scoring for the game took place. And just a spoiler alert, it was all from Carlinville. Easterday wasted no time putting the ball in perfect position for his receivers. With 10:17 on the clock, Easterday placed the ball right in the bread basket of Ambuel for a 43-yard touchdown. 28-0. After the score, Carlinville caught Staunton by surprise with an onside kick. “I thought overall we had another great team effort. We played very well on both sides of the ball and once again we had a great night of special teams,” said Coach Easterday. Carlinville ran multiple bubble screens for Dixon throughout the drive. As was the case for every team this season, Staunton could not stop the Easterday-Dixon connection. Easterday once again found Ambuel, this time for a 30-yard score, to put the Cavaliers ahead 35-0.
The Bulldogs had their longest play and drive of the game after Ambuel’s second score of the night. After a long completion down the sideline, the Bulldogs were set up on the goal line with a chance to put some points on the scoreboard. But, the Carlinville defense wasn’t going to sacrifice this shutout. A ball was tipped at the line and intercepted by Rayme Lewis.
The last score of the game came with 4:29 in the third quarter when Easterday found Will Walton for a 23-yard touchdown. Easterday finished with 272 yards and three touchdowns while completing 71 percent of his passes. Ethan Wallace led the rushing attack with 79 yards on only 13 carries. Meanwhile, Ambuel led the receivers with 84 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cavaliers, with a current record of 8-0, have a chance to win the SCC outright and cap off a perfect season with a win on senior night against the Greenville Comets (6-2). The Staunton Bulldogs (4-4) look to clinch a playoff spot when they visit the Roxana Shells (2-6). “With the great group of seniors that we have they have been focused all year. They have set the tone for the entire season. One of their goals was to win the conference outright and we have that chance Friday night. Also, I think that focus will carry over into the post season as well,” said Easterday.
Senior receiver Jake Ambuel caught five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs Friday night. Photo by Cory Walton.