LINDEN  - A 50-yard pass play on the first play of the game was just a hint of what was ahead as the Carlisle Indians ripped off a 82-7 win over Linden-Kildare here Friday night in the regular season finale.

It was the Indians’ fifth straight win as they ran their season record to 5-4 and 5-1 in District 9-2A. Carlisle will face 6-3 Shelbyville in the first round of the playoffs Thursday in Carthage. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Indians ran up 538 yards total offense and nine different players scored, including a backup defensive lineman. “Everyone got to play and we came out of it healthy,” Carlisle coach Clay Baker said after the game. “The game just got away from them (L-K). I thought the kids played well with a lot of effort.”

Baker played all 24 players he had suited up and five of the touchdowns were scored by players who had not scored before. Baker said he asked the officials for a running clock but was told the Tiger coach had to make to request it.

The Indians ran only 32 offensive plays, with 368 coming on the ground in just 25 carries, a 14.7 average. Sophomore QB Fernando Espinoza completed seven of 10 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Linden-Kildare managed just 24 yards on the ground in 32 carries and was three of nine passing for another 25 yards.

After Espinoza hooked up with sophomore Clayton Hart on the 50-yard pass on the first play of the game, junior running back Brody Eaves would open the scoring four plays later with a four-yard run up the middle. Eaves led all rushers with 108 yards on just 10 carries, all in the first half. Sophomore David DeLeon booted the first of his PATs on the night for a quick 7-0 lead with 2:02 seconds gone off the clock. 

Hart finished with two catches for 66 yards and had another 69 on the ground including a 50-yard TD. 

On the ensuing kickoff, the Tiger returner watched the ball die at the two and an alert Alex Ontiveros fell on the pigskin and Espinoza scored his TD of the season on the next play and the Indians had a quick 14-0 lead with 9:53 left in the first quarter.

After a interception return put the Tigers at the Carlisle five, Jay Birmingham carried three straight times and scored from the two with 4:27 left in the first period. Aiden Hernandez added PAT to cut the lead to 14-7. Birmingham had 36 yards on 22 carries to lead the Tigers in a gutty performance.

It was all Carlisle from there. 

Freshman Freshman Zeshaun Reed returned the kickoff 48 yards to the Tiger 30 and, three plays later, scored the first TD of his varsity career with a 23-yard reception from Espinoza with 2:51 on the clock for 21-7 lead. Reed is the Indians’ leading receiver on the year with 28 catches for 325 yards, but Hart has 549 yards on 24 receptions.

Eaves scored again on a five-yard run with four seconds left in the first to end a six-play, 65-yard drive.

Holding the Tigers on downs following the kickoff, the Tribe took over at the LK 35 and Espinoza hit Aaron Gallegos with a 35-yard strike with 10:03 left in the half for a 34-7 lead.

Gallegos was making his first appearance after being injured in the final non-district game against Timpson. Gallegos, a three-time All State kicker, will hopefully resume the kicking duties against Shelbyville, Baker said. “He’ll start kicking Monday and we’ll see how that goes.”

DeLeon took over as kicker after Gallegos injured his kicking foot and was 31 of 39 on extra points and made two of his four field goal attempts. “David has done a great job,” Baker said. “Obviously, he wasn’t expecting to kick with a three-time All State guy in front of him, but he stepped up and has done a great job for us.”

After a bad snap on fourth down, the Tiger punter threw the ball away and the Indians took over at the LK 25. On the next play, Espinoza hit Eaves in the right corner of the end zone for a 41-7 lead with 8:04 left in the first half. It would be the Indians’ final pass of the night.

Taking over at their own 45 following another three-and-out by the Tigers, Eaves outraced the defense around right end and sped untouched for a 55-yard score with 5:18 left in the first half for a 48-7 lead. It was his final carry of the night.

Starting at the Tribe 19 after still another LK punt, DeLeon ripped off a 19-yard run followed by a 11-yard gain by Luis Reyes.

Hart took a handoff from Espinoza, took off around right end and sprinted untouched for a 50-yard TD and a 55-7 lead with 1:26 on the clock

Reyes, a backup running back, scored his second TD of the night on a 16-yard run with 5:08 left in the third to end a 53-yard, six-play drive and a 62-7 lead.

After a L-K punt, the Indians took over at the Tiger 44 and freshman Erik Garza ripped off 34 yards right up the middle and then went the final 10 on the next play when he started around right end but cut it back the middle to reach the end zone for his first TD of the season and a 69-7 margin with 11 seconds left in the third.

Carlisle took over at its own 42 following another Tiger punt and Oliveras, who had just one carry coming into the game, ripped off 43 yards on first down. Garza added another 11 before Oliveras reached the end zone for the first time on a four-yard blast up the middle with 7:30 left in the game

The Indians’ final score came with 4:33 on the clock when Christibal Hernandez, a starter at right guard on offense but a reserve on defense, stripped the ball from the Tigers on an attempted handoff and lumbered 30 yards for Carlisle’s final points of the night.

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