High School Football

Westville knocks Carlyle out of playoffs on big plays

The team that had to win five straight road games to qualify for the playoffs and advance to the second round, gave stiff resistance to the bracket’s second-seeded team.

But unbeaten Westville broke upstart Carlyle’s back with the last play from scrimmage in the first half and advanced to the IHSA Class 2A quarterfinals with a 46-28 win.

“There is so much film available to you these days, it’s almost like cheating,” said Westville coach Guy Goodlove. “But we saw something on them defensively and were able to confuse them a little and get the ball into the hands of our playmaker.

“It turned the game for us.”

Carlyle had pulled within a point of the Tigers with an 80-yard touchdown strike from senior Alex Huels to Nick Becker. But a failed punt fake by the Indians on their next possession left Westville with the ball on the 46-yard line and 15 seconds left on the clock.

Quarterback Duncan Hathaway found playmaker Tylan Stricklett in the flat, and the senior wide receiver broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.

“I never want to say anybody is the best player I’ve ever had, but he’s right there on the list,” Goodlove said. “He runs a 4.6 (sec) 40 (yard dash), has great hands and has been making plays like that all year for us.”

Carlyle thought it would receive the second half kickoff trailing by a point. Instead, the Indians trailed by seven and had ceded all the momentum to the visiting Tigers.

By the end of the third quarter, Westville led 40-20.

“It was awful, just awful,” said Carlyle coach Chris Birkner. “We should have punted again, but we had the fake on, and we thought it was open. I figured even if we don’t make it, it’s still 50 yards and just 15 seconds. That’s two plays we have to stop them, and we’ve done it before.

“It really hurt because we thought we’d have the momentum coming out of the locker room.”

The third quarter wasn’t necessarily the knockout blow for Carlyle.

The Indians scored again with 10:24 left on a 2-yard run by Landon Smith to make the score 40-28, then moved the ball into Westville territory with a chance to make it a one-score game.

But they were stopped on a fourth-and-5 play. Cameron Nicholas scored his third touchdown of the game to put things out of reach.

“It’s hard to come out of three touchdown hole, but I love the way the guys battled,” Huels said. “The last touchdown was the dagger.”

Nicholas had given Westville the early lead with a 97-yard touchdown run that tied the state record in Class 2A. He finished the game with 186 yards on 17 carries.

Hathaway scored on runs of nine and 32 yards and threw touchdown passes of 46 and 21 yards, both of them to Stricklett. He finished the game with 4 of 11 passing for 87 yards. Owen Mariage-Tucker added 91 yards on just 12 carries.

Huels finished 12 of 22 for 161 yards. Smith had 73 yards on 22 rushes.

Westville (11-0) advances to a 2A quarterfinal game against No. 6 Shelbyville, a 50-35 winner over Tri-Valley on Saturday.

With three losses in week six of the regular season, Carlyle was on the bring of being playoff ineligible. But they were able to crash the class 2A party with four straight wins on the road and their 32-14 win over Sciota — once again as the visitors — put them in the second round for the first time since 2013.

The Indians’ season ends at 7-4.