by Bruce Hixon
for the Breese Journal 


Making the tackle — Carlyle’s Nick Becker tackles Red Bud’s Austin Melliere by the head in the first half of the Indians’ 3-point, Cahokia Conference victory last Friday. The 3-0 Indians will play at fellow unbeaten Central on Friday.
    They did not make many stops on the defensive side of the ball, but the Carlyle Indians came up with one in the closing seconds that preserved a 36-33 Cahokia Conference road win at Red Bud last Friday night.
    With Carlyle holding that slim 3-point advantage, the Indians appeared to have secured the win when Benji VonBurg intercepted a pass by Musketeers quarterback Griffin Ziebold with two minutes left after Red Bud drove to the Tribe’s 29-yard line. 
    That turnover was negated when Carlyle was called for a roughing the passer penalty, as Ziebold was hit as he released the ball. The penalty not only gave the ball back to the Musketeers, but moved it 15 yards closer to the 14. 
    After an incomplete pass and losses of two and nine yards moved the ball back to the 25, Red Bud’s last hope faded when Jack Drennan dropped a fourth down pass in stride from Ziebold at the 2-yard line.
    The defensive stop capped off a wild contest that saw the lead change hands six times, which included four times in the second half. The last of those came with 3:20 left when Indians quarterback Alex Huels hit Tyler Siever for a 4-yard touchdown pass that erased what had been a 33-30 advantage for the home team.
    “We didn’t necessarily play well, but what we played we played our tails off. It was gut-check time at the end. I’m not going to lie. I was scared there at the end,” said Carlyle coach Chris Birkner, whose team improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Cahokia Conference. “We have three things we stress to our kids, which are effort, follow your assignments and play with toughness.”
    The Indians outgained Red Bud (1-2 overall and 0-2 in league play) 393-367. Most of that yardage was provided by the two signal callers. Huels completed 21 of 29 passes for 319 yards and four TDs, as six Carlyle players had at least one reception. Meanwhile Ziebold completed 15 of 26 attempts for 267 and matched Huels’ four TDs through the air. Ziebold also led the Musketeers’ ground game with 78 yards on 18 carries.
    “We know Tyler is a marked man among our receivers, but Alex did a good job of finding the open man and spreading the ball around,” said Birkner. “Ziebold is a stud. He’s mobile enough that if you rush him he will take off and run the ball and if you play back he will pick you apart.”
    Ziebold and the Musketeers got off to a rocky start, as his first pass on Red Bud’s second offensive play was caught and then fumbled by Drennan. 
    Carlyle recovered at its own 48 and nine plays later Huels hit Jared VonderHaar for a 1-yard TD toss on fourth down. The same pair connected on a 2-point conversion that boosted the Tribe’s lead to 8-0 with 7:05 left in the first quarter.
    Ziebold brought the Musketeers right back, as he either threw or passed for all 62 yards on a 6-play drive that ended with a 22-yard TD pass to Seth Bass. Carlyle’s lead remained at 8-6 when Leshawn Andrews blocked Gunner Dickenson’s point after attempt with 3:44 left in the first quarter.
    Red Bud put together a similar drive in the waning moments of the period. Ziebold ran for 31 yards on three carries and completed two passes for 29 yards that included a 20-yard TD pass to Drennan on the final play of the first quarter that put Red Bud up 12-8. Ziebold’s 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
    Carlyle’s only turnover in the game on its ensuing possession led to a third straight Red Bud touchdown, as Nate Bleier recovered a fumble in the Tribe backfield at the Indians’ 37-yard line. 
    After Ziebold kept the possession alive with a 13-yard gain on a third-and-2 he connected with Seth Bass for a 16-yard TD on a slant pass. The Musketeers failed on their third PAT as Ziebold’s pass fell incomplete and kept Red Bud’s advantage at 18-8 with 8:32 left in the first half.
    The Indians got some help from their defense to get their offense going again midway through the second quarter as Nick Becker picked off a pass from Ziebold at the Red Bud 40.
    Huels hit VonBurg for a 39-yard completion on the following play and Landon Smith covered the remaining yard for a TD with a run up the middle on the next play. Smith also ran in a 2-point conversion that reduced the Musketeers’ advantage to 18-16 with 6:41 left in the first half.
    The Tribe’s defense also came up big on the next series when they stopped Red Bud on downs at the Carlyle 22 when they threw Logan Houba for a 2-yard loss on fourth down. 
    Huels accounted for all but three yards on the ensuing 78-yard possession, which included a 48-yard TD pass to Nick Becker that moved the Indians in front 22-18 with 1:45 left in the second quarter. Carlyle’s two-point attempt failed when a run by Lane Heinzmann fell short of the goal line.
    The Musketeers overcame false start and illegal block penalties on their first possession of the second half, as they drove 55 yards over 11 plays to regain the lead. The Musketeers converted one fourth down and two third downs prior to a 9-yard TD pass from Ziebold to Alex Birchler. Ziebold followed with a 2-point pass to Bass that extended Red Bud’s advantage to 26-22 with five minutes left in the third period.
    Carlyle turned to its passing game to move back in front in the fourth quarter. Huels hit Siever for a 10-yard gain before the pair connected again, this time on a 34-yard TD pass across the middle. A 2-point conversion pass from Huels to VonBurg widened the Tribe’s advantage to 30-26 with 7:23 left.
    The Indians had Red Bud pinned deep in its own territory on the next possession until Ziebold teamed up with Austin Melliere for an 85-yard TD pass that  regained the lead for the Musketeers. Dickenson split the uprights with his PAT kick that widened Red Bud’s advantage to 33-30 with 6:07 left.
    Carlyle’s winning drive began from its own 37. Completions of 16 yards to VonBurg and 41 to Siever helped move the ball to the Red Bud five. A 4-yard gain by Smith took the ball to the 1-yard line, but Huels was sacked for a 3-yard loss that pushed the Tribe back to the 4-yard line. When Siever hauled in Huels’ 4-yard TD pass that gave the Indians a 36-33 advantage, it was his team-high sixth reception for 122 yards.
    Besides Siever’s receiving yardage, Becker had five receptions for 83 yards, VonderHaar had four catches for 28 yards and Heinzmann had three receptions for 31 yards. Smith led Carlyle’s ground game with 62 yards on 18 attempts.
    Carlyle, which is 3-0 for the first time since 2013, has an early-season showdown this Friday when it travels to Central in a Cahokia Conference matchup of unbeatens. The Cougars also are 3-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. Game time  in Breese is 7 p.m.


Breaking the tackle — Central senior quarterback Trent Nunn (5) breaks a tackle en route to the end zone in the Cougars’ 42-27 win over Freeburg on Friday. Nunn had four touchdown runs and two touchdown passes for the 3-0 Cougars.
    The Central Cougars fought off a shaky first half to move to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Cahokia Conference play after their 42-27 win at Freeburg last Friday night.
    The Cougars scored the final 21 points to ensure the win behind six touchdowns from senior quarterback Trent Nunn.
    The Cougars will square off against fellow unbeaten Carlyle on Friday at Robert J. Astroth Field in Breese.
    Central got a defensive stop on Freeburg’s opening possession of the game and the offense responded with an 8-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off with an 8-yard touchdown run from Nunn.
    Freeburg responded with an impressive 8-play drive that took less than three minutes before Cal Clossen connected with Zach Pluff on a 15-yard touchdown pass to tie the contest.
    Nunn and Tyler Huegen marched the ball down the field again for the Cougars on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that cumulated with a Nunn 4-yard score.
    Clossen went back to work for Freeburg (1-2) as he found Tyler White for a 36-yard touchdown pass before the Cougars blocked the point after try which gave them a 14-13 lead in the second quarter.
    Central marched the ball 60 yards before Nunn found Tyler Malone for a 15-yard touchdown score to extend the lead to 21-13 with 7:16 left in the half.
    Hayden Shea got in on the action for the Midgets on the next drive when he ran in from 10 yards out to cap a quick 62-yard, 3-play drive as they got within 21-19.
    The Cougars seemed to be going into the locker room with a lead, but that changed in the final seconds of the half.
    Central marched the ball down the field and set up for a Jay Detmer field goal from 24 yards out with nine seconds left.
    However, the kick was blocked and Brendan Meng ran it back 90 yards to give the Midgets a 27-21 lead at the break.
    “We definitely are the cardiac Cougars,” said Central head coach Brian Short.  “We had a chance to go up 28-13 going into the half and we talked about running out the clock.  Then we drive it all the way down there and try the field goal.  I tip my cap to Freeburg, they had some bad luck last week and we got up on them early tonight and they didn’t go away.  They always seem to play us tough.”
    The Cougars dominated the second half after taking their first possession 63 yards before Nunn scored from 1-yard out to give the visitors the lead for good.
    “We are such a better second half team, but we need to stop doing that and play a full four quarters,” added Short.
    Nunn added another 1-yard touchdown run and a 56-yard touchdown pass to Timmy Callahan to round out the scoring for the Cougars who outgained the Midgets 210 second-half yards to 119 for Freeburg.
    Freeburg turned the ball over on four of their five possessions in the second half.
    “People seem to try and take the underneath stuff against us, but when they try to go up top, we seem to be there and the kids are making plays,” said Short.
    Nunn finished 11-of-29 for 225 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception.  He also ran the ball 31 times for 190 yards and four scores.
    “Trent is just a great leader and he’s a fullback playing quarterback,” said Short.  “He’s playing great.”
    Huegen ran the ball 14 times for 56 yards while the Cougars had five receivers with at least 35 yards.  Garrett Richter led the way with three catches for 57 yards.
    Tyler Malone led the defense with five tackles while Callahan had two interceptions.  Central forced five turnovers.
    Detmer was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts while Lucas Wobbe had three punts end up inside the Midgets’ 20-yard line.
    “I cannot say enough about our kicking game,” added Short.  “They are both soccer players who come over after soccer practice and work on their kicking with us.  We have struggled in the past with extra points and our punting game has never been better than what it is now,” said Short.
    Clossen was 15-of-25 under center for 149 yards passing with two touchdowns and two picks.
    Central finished with 453 total yards while Freeburg registered 284.
    NOTE:  Trent Nunn leads the state of Illinois in total points with 72  and total touchdowns with 12 according to 
    Cahokia Conference Football Standings
    Conf Overall
Central 2-0 3-0
Carlyle 2-0 3-0
Wesclin 1-0 3-0
Columbia 1-0 2-1
Freeburg 0-2 1-2
Red Bud 0-2 1-2
Salem 0-2 0-3
Friday, Sept. 15 - Carlyle @ Central 7 p.m.

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