With fewer than 30 players on their entire roster, many Carlyle Indians players rarely leave the field.
It took a total team effort by everyone to knock off Eldorado 29-14 Saturday in a Class 2A state football playoff game that sent the Indians (9-1) into the second round.
"Eldorado's a big, strong ballclub and they took it at us," said Carlyle coach Randy Dooley, whose team withstood an offense that ran the ball 63 times for 343 yards, including a 165-yard day by Dylan Roberts. "It's been our scenario all year, we just kind of hang around and make a play whether it's on offense, defense or special teams."
Along with a big defensive stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1 in the first half, the Indians also rode the momentum built when Deven Hicks returned the second-half kickoff 70 yards.
Hicks scored on a 9-yard run on that possession, then added a 10-yard TD late in the third quarter.
"You've got to give the players some credit, they showed a lot of backbone," Dooley said of the 9-1 Indians, who are on the road this week for a 1 p.m. game Saturday against Staunton (6-4). "In a lot of games this year we could have folded because we were physically getting handled and there wasn't much we could do about it. These kids wouldn't quit."
Hicks had 58 yards and two TDs on 17 carries while Carlyle quarterback Billy Cummins was 11-of-20 for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Cummins threw a 24-yard TD pass to Logan Zachry with 1:13 remaining before halftime that saw Zachry bull his way into the end zone.
"Zach made a catch on a deflection and stayed with it, then he carried a couple guys into the end zone," Dooley said of Zachry. "It can be the littlest thing that all of a sudden gets that momentum turned. Old 'mojo' is hard to get back sometimes."
Tommy Cummins caught four passes for 109 yards, including a 64-yard TD with 7:26 remaining to help clinch the victory. Zachry had four catches for 52 yards.
Carlyle's defense came up big as the Indians, who trailed 14-8 at halftime, outscored the 21-0 in the second half.
Middle linebacker Jordan Rainey had 21 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
"He's been the heart and soul of our defense," said Dooley, who also praised junior defensive tackle Brent Johnson for his 19 tackles and 13 solo stops.
Defensive ends Alex Voss and Wanya Walker also have been strong this season for the Indians.
An assistant coach under Gary Wheeler during Carlyle's 1988 state championship run and for many years, Dooley has never strayed far from the solid fundamentals he learned during Wheeler's tenure.
Wheeler died of cancer in 2008, but he would have been pleased to see two of his former players along with Dooley coaching teams in the state playoffs on Saturday.
Former Carlyle and University of Miami lineman Brad Kunz helped guide Plano (9-1) to a first-round win, while former Carlyle quarterback Scott Horner's 9-1 Columbia squad lost to Althoff.
"I think of Coach Wheeler every day," Dooley said. "It's just amazing what he's left inside us. Wheels has still got a hand in this."
Flyers' Taylor making a statement
Despite not carrying the ball once in the first four games this season, East St. Louis senior Gregory Taylor is the metro-east rushing leader with 1,305 yards on just 122 carries.
The University of Missouri defensive back recruit is averaging 10.7 yards per carry for the Flyers (7-3) and already has two games of 300-plus yards in his six running back starts.
In a 33-6 Class 6A state playoff win Saturday over Normal West, Taylor went off for 327 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He also returned an interception for a third TD.
With Flyers' star Nate Strong out with a leg injury, Taylor has filled in admirably.
In his first game in the backfield Sept. 28, Taylor rolled up 311 yards and three TDs on 24 carries in a victory over Belleville East.
He also had a 260-yard, four-TD performance in a win over Belleville West and has not been held below 124 yards in any of his six games at running back.
Taylor also has 11 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns and on defense he has 76 tackles, two sacks and an interceptions.
While Taylor's 327 yards against Normal West were impressive, they were still short of the 6A single-game playoff record. Harvey Thornton's David Wright ran for 392 yards in a 1990 playoff game against Homewood-Flossmoor.
Former Althoff star Hickey Thompson holds the single-game playoff record with 410 yards on 32 carries in the Crusaders' 1990 3A semifinal victory over Monticello.
Other teams aren't exactly celebrating when they are in the same state football playoff bracket as the Rochester Rockets.
Rochester (9-1) travels to Mater Dei (7-3) for a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday trying to extend its string of Class 4A state championships to four in a row.
Since 2009, the Rockets are 60-5 and coach Derek Leonard's record in nine seasons is 80-24. Rochester's only loss this season came as a forfeit to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin for a violation of Illinois High School Association rules regarding the purchase of state championship rings.
No one has beaten them on the field.
Rochester's top two weapons are quarterback Robbie Kelley (150-of-226 for 2,089 yards and 19 touchdowns with four interceptions) and running back Drake Berberet (1,045 yards and 25 TDs on 150 carries).
The Rockets' top receiver is Hill with 44 catches for 615 yards and five TDs.