Althoff football coach Ken Turner knew earlier this week field position and containing the speed of the Carbondale Terriers would be vital in the outcome of their South Seven Conference match-up.
He was right.
Carbondale senior wide receiver Tavaris Macklin and sophomore running back Gabe Hilliard each scored twice in the first half as the Terriers rolled to a 50-21 win at Althoff High School.
Intercepting three of Althoff quarterback Will Ache’s first eight pass attempts, two of which resulted in touchdowns, the Terriers (6-1, 3-1), jumped out to a 36-0 lead in the opening 21 minutes and coasted from there as as they clinched an IHSA playoff spot for the second straight year.
“It’s also the first time in either 26 or 27 years that Carbondale has qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons. So this is a pretty special night for these kids and this football program,” Carbondale coach Bryan Lee said. “These kids have earned this. They’ve worked hard for it.”
Althoff, which trailed 50-7 before getting late touchdowns from D’Shawn Williams and Jayden Cosey, falls to 2-2 in conference play and 2-5 overall.
Following an early Crusaders turnover, Hilliard capped a 46-yard drive with a 2-yard run with 5 minutes, 47 seconds left in the opening quarter to give Carbondale a 7-0 lead.
It was just the beginning. Only 52 seconds later Macklin intercepted an Ache pass and went 46 yards for the score. When Terriers quarterback Darius Ragland connected with speedy Lashawn Newell on a 21-yard scoring pass with 3:31 left in the first quarter, Carbondale had its third touchdown in less than three minutes and a commanding 22-0 lead..
“This is a team (Althoff) which we’ve had difficulty with in the past and to be able to make some big plays and get out to an early lead was big for us,” Lee said. “We’ve got speed at the skill positions, but we’re also playing a lot of underclassmen.
“Our quarterback is s junior, our running (Hilliard) is a sophomore and we’re playing with three juniors on the offensive line. We thought we had some talent and these younger kids have stepped up and played well this season. Now we’ll get ready for another big game next week against Marion.:
Marion (7-0, 4-0) was ranked seventh this week in the Class 5A state poll, while Carbondale was 10th.
While Carbondale will be playing postseason football in early November, Althoff saw its playoff dreams officially end Friday.
Facing pressure from a strong Terriers pass rush early, the Crusaders turnovers and the Terriers speed were keys in the first half.
“We talked about their (Carbondale’s) speed back on Monday. We just didn’t do a very good job against it,” Turner said “The turnovers were also a key.
“We just didn’t execute the way we needed to against a very good football team..’’
Macklin added a 61 yard touchdown run and Hilliard dashed 85 yards for a score in the second quarter as the lead expanded to 36-0.
Althoff finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half when Ache connected with Nick Alberico on a 26-yard scoring pass play.