TATUM - Coming in as a big underdog, going out as a winner.
That was the story here Thursday night as the Carlisle Indians took a 35-28 Class 2A bi-district win over Joaquin and will face the winner of the Normangee/Thrall game in the second round.
Carlisle, the third-place finisher in District 9-2A, came in with a 6-4 record while Joaquin, the runnerup in
District 10-2A, sported an 8-1 mark. Normangee and Thrall were scheduled to play Friday night.
Senior Jamion Turner turned in the best game of his career, finishing with 181 yards on just 12 carries, with touchdown runs of 48 and 57 on consecutive carries, and had possibly his best run of the night on the game-winning score when he took a handoff and headed to left tackle, seeing his way blocked there he shifted gears and took off to the right before cutting upfield and scoring untouched to finish off a 13-yard run with 2:53 left in the game.
"I told the kids, and I mean it, I haven't been the head coach for a long time but I've been here for a while, I can't remember being more proud of a bunch of guys than I am tonight," Carlisle coach Clay Baker said on the field after the game, "not just because we got the win, but this is the most unselfish team I've ever been a part of.
"Two examples that just stand out are Carlos (DeLeon) was our quarterback last year and rushed for 1,500 yards and threw for 1,400, and he's not our quarterback this year. Jamion ran for more than 1,000 yards last year and he's not our running back this year. Matt is our quarterback and he played tight end the entire second half and not a one of the three ever said a word to me," Baker said proudly. "I told the guys the excitement they had stands out even more than the win."
The Tribe scored first when a pack of Indians sacked Joaquin QB Chandler Prichett for a seven-yard loss on a fourth-and-11 and took possession at their own 33. After DeLeon ran for 13 on first down, Rigdon found a tightly-covered Brett Roland for 40 yards down to the Joaquin 14. Three plays later, DeLeon scored from the three. Aaron Gallegos' PAT gave Carlisle a 7-0 lead with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
Two series later, Joaquin answered with a 55-yard, seven-play drive that ended with a seven-yard TD run by Cole Bragg. A try for two failed and the Indians had a 7-6 lead with 9:50 left in the first half.
The Indians' next touchdown came from the defense when Bragg was tackled hard by a couple of Tribe defenders, coughed up the football and Rigdon scooped it up, broke a couple of would-be arm tackles, and rambled 24 yards to paydirt. Gallegos' PAT stretched the lead to 14-6 with 7:06 left in the half.
Joaquin took the second-half kickoff and went 65 yards in 11 plays to tie the score at 14-14 following a successful two-point conversion with 7:08 left in the third stanza.
It took the Indians just two plays after the kickoff to retake the lead. DeLeon ran for 10 on first down and then Turner took off around right end and used his blazing speed to outrun the Ram defense for a 48-yard score. Once again, Gallegos' PAT was good and the Tribe led 21-14 with 6:47 on the clock.
Joaquin came right back following the kickoff to go 65 yards in 14 plays with Prichett scoring a QB sneak from the one. Andre Brown added the two-point conversion and the Rams took the lead for the first time, 22-21, with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
Three plays later, Turner blew through a hole on the left side and once again outraced the Rams to the end zone, this time from 57 yards away. A try for two failed, but the Indians had regained the lead at 27-21 with 11:42 left in the game.
The Rams came right back with an 85-yard, 13-play drive that culminated with a 19-yard pass from Prichett to Drew Fuller, but the two-point conversion attempt failed as the Rams retook the lead at 28-27 with 5:37 left in the game.
Not to be denied, the Indians began the comeback with a 19-yard return on the kickoff by Griff Rigdon, who had left the game early in the first quarter with a knee injury. Turner ripped off a 17-yard run around right end and then followed it with an eight-yard run. DeLeon added a nine-yard run and the duo combined for 13 yards on the next two plays to put the ball at the 13 where Turner did his magic for the winning touchdown with 2:53 left in the game.
The Tribe defense gave up a quick first down before stiffening and taking over at the Ram 17 following an unsportsmanlike penalty and a sack on fourth down to run out the clock.
"We talked about it at halftime, it was obvious we wanted to run the football and didn't do it like we wanted in the first half," Baker said. "I told the kids, we have to run the football. Normally, I'd come in and say we're going to change because it's not working, but I said we're running the football. Every coach agreed we were going to put it in 25's (Turner) hands and that's what we did."
Turner had 147 of his yards on just six carries in the second half.
"I don't know why we couldn't run it the first half, but we went from one tight end to two tight ends in the second half. If anyone noticed, we ran behind Matt at tight end because he was cleaning it up.
"Even though they scored 28 points, we may have played our best defensive game," Baker pointed out. "They are a very, very good offensive team, they're good at what they do and they're hard to stop. We gave up some points but we didn't break. I'm extremely proud of our guys."