GLADEWATER - Carlos DeLeon is finally healthy.
The Carlisle senior, who ran for 1,554 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, has missed much of the 2020 season due to injury and a Covid quarantine, broke loose for 101 yards Friday night and a pair of TDs on just nine carries as the Indians downed Union Grove 43-22 in a District 9-2A contest to move to 5-4 on the season and to 2-2 in league play.
In other 9-2A games, Frankston held off Linden Kildare 40-34 and Beckville blistered Big Sandy 59-0. Carlisle will host Linden Kildare to close out the regular season. As it stands now, it appears the Indians will face 8-1 Joaquin, who fell to Timpson 63-0 Friday night, in the first round of the playoffs.
Carlisle was playing without head coach Clay Baker, who had tested positive for Covid earlier in the week. His father, Rocky Baker, the Indians’ defensive coordinator, took over for his son.
With the Indians trailing 14-8 with 10:32 left in the first half, DeLeon took a pitch from Tribe QB Matthew Rigdon and headed around right end before reversing field and cutting back to the middle of the field and then turning up at the line of scrimmage, evading two would-be tacklers in traffic before making a move that left the last UG defender on his posterior at the 20 to finish off a 51-yard scoring run that would give the Tribe a lead it would never relinquish.
“Carlos looked like the old Carlos,” Baker said. “His ankles are better, he’s fought all year with injuries. I think tonight was the first time we’ve had the true Carlos back. We’re able to use Carlos a lot of different ways and it was nice to see him break out tonight.”
Baker’s starting defense gave up a couple of big plays, but shut the Lions out the rest of the way. “We’re that defense, we can bend but not break. We played a lot of people, we lost a linebacker (Cory Roe) right off the bat and that really hurt us. He’s probably out for the year. We started three freshmen and they took their lumps but they came up big when they had to,” Baker said.
“We played with a lot more intensity, we talked about it all week, we talked about it on the way over here and we talked about in the locker room. We have to win out to make the playoffs, so this is the playoffs for us.
“This was 100 percent for Coach B (his son). I was able to give him something back tonight,” the elder Baker said. “He (Clay) has no idea what it means to me to be able to coach with one of my sons.” Baker said he checked with his son at halftime by phone.
Once again, Carlisle gave up a quick score to start the game, as Lion QB Chase Mead would race 59 yards on the fifth play of the contest for a quick 8-0 lead with 2:15 gone off the clock. After the two teams swapped possessions, the Indians took over at its own 25 following a Mead quick kick. Jamion Turner got 14 yards on first down, another three on the next play before Rigdon was sacked for a three yard loss. Rigdon hit Turner for eight yards before Turner took a handoff on a fourth-and-one and went 52 yards untouched down the right sideline. Rigdon ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8 with 11:06 left in the first half.
On the first play following Aaron Gallegos’ kickoff, which landed in the end zone for one of his five touchbacks, Union Grove’s Matthew Bower went 75 yards to give the hosts a short-lived 14-8 lead.
Union Grove’s attempted onside kick was unsuccessful as Alexis Hernandez fell on the ball at the 49 and on the next play DeLeon went 51 yards to give the Indians a 15-8 lead. It was the third touchdown scored in a span of just 34 seconds.
A big defensive play set up the Tribe’s next touchdown. With Union Grove at its own 49 with a first and 10, Rigdon surged in from his defensive end spot and blasted Mead, who lost the ball and Carlisle’s Joel Fraser fell on the pigskin at the Lion 43. Eight plays later, DeLeon scored his second touchdown of the night on a seven-yard run through the left side of the line with 6:12 left in the first half. Gallegos’ PAT gave the Indians a 22-14 lead they would carry into halftime.
Taking the second half kickoff, another failed onside kick, the Indians took advantage of the short field and went 49 yards in eight plays with Rigdon scoring from the three. Once again, Gallegos’ PAT was perfect and the Tribe led 29-14 with 7:46 left in the third period. The big play in the drive was a 19-yard run by Griffin Rigdon.
Union Grove squeaked out a first down following the kickoff before Xaryus Sheppard blitzed in from the left side of the Lion offense and blasted Mead, causing yet another fumble. Turner picked up the loose ball on a dead run and went 34 yards for a touchdown with 3:10 left in the third. Gallegos’ PAT gave Carlisle an insurmountable 36-14 lead.
Rigdon and Fraser led Carlisle with 11 tackles each. Turner had seven tackles, including two for loss, and ran back a fumble for a touchdown. Sheppard, only a freshman, had missed the game against Hawkins a week before due Covid, had five tackles and a pair of sacks.
Following the kickoff, the Indian defense stiffened and held Union Grove on downs at the Indian 45 and 10 plays later Rigdon put the final nail in the coffin with a one-yard run over left tackle. Once again, Gallegos’ PAT was true and the Indians held a 43-14 led with only 4:54 left in the game. Baker flooded the field with reserves and UG was able to score a meaningless touchdown late in the game.
Turner finished with 92 yards rushing on just eight carries and Rigdon was a precision-like nine of 13 passes for 93 yards. Gallegos was the leading receiver with three receptions for 34 yards.