Mike Brown got the answer he was hoping for Thursday night.
His Carlisle High School football team staggered into an early 13-7 deficit with some self-inflicted wounds, but the Indians rose up and showed their mettle in a 28-20 triumph over visiting Eaton at Laughlin Field.
“We practice to play the perfect game, and I think something we did pretty early on was try to help the team understand that you’re not going to play the perfect game,” Brown said. “And then it comes down to, ‘What are you going to do when it happens?’
“Our kids responded in a positive way, and we played really hard. We’re going to watch film and there’s still going to be a lot of things going into Week 10 that we need to fix, but I think our kids take pride in playing hard every snap.”
Carlisle rolled up 339 rushing yards with a four-headed monster: D.J. Chambers (15 carries, 108 yards, two TDs), quarterback Jake Moore (19 carries, 104 yards, TD), Spencer Mays (16 carries, 87 yards, TD) and Dane Flatter (eight carries, 40 yards).
“Our offensive line has really come together for how little experience we had coming into the season,” Brown said. “As a head coach who’s a former offensive lineman, if you can pound the ball a little bit, you’re having fun.”
The Indians improved to 6-3 and kept their Division V, Region 20 playoff hopes alive heading into next Friday’s regular-season finale at home against Dixie.
“We’re not worried about the playoffs. We’ve just got to get the ‘W’ and let God do what he does,” Chambers said. “Coach Brown’s been in the playoffs every year, and we’d kind of feel like we let him down if we didn’t make it. But we know that he loves us at the end of the day. We’ve enjoyed playing this year either way.”
Eaton’s first two touchdowns came with very little offensive effort. Carlisle fumbled the ball away on its first drive, and the Eagles’ Caleb Puckett ran 14 yards for a TD on the next play.
Early in the second period, Chip Parker put the visitors up 13-7 when he scooped up a CHS fumble near midfield and scampered for a touchdown.
“I thought we were kind of beating ourselves,” Mays said. “We were making mistakes we don’t typically make. We just had to find who we are, get in at halftime and pick it back up for the second half.”
The Indians did take a 14-13 edge into the break after a 34-yard scoring run by Chambers with 5:31 left in the second stanza, but it was a first half the hosts couldn’t feel very good about.
Carlisle then scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter, two drives that were all on the ground. Chambers ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run on the opening play on the fourth period, but it turned out to be his second penalty-negated TD of the night.
Chambers also had two touchdowns called back in last week’s game against Milton-Union. Nobody would’ve blamed him for reacting with frustration, but he didn’t.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Chambers said. “The O-line blocks the whole game, so if it happens every once in a while, I’m fine with it. You just go back and hopefully make another play.”
The Eagles (3-6) closed the gap to 28-20 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Venable to Zac Schmidt with 8:36 left. It was a four-play, 30-yard drive.
Eaton got one more possession starting at its own 22 with 5:19 remaining. Two sacks (the first by Mays, the second by Mays and Nathan Berger) and an incomplete pass later, the visitors punted, and the Indians ran out the clock with three first downs.
“I think it’s hard for some of these guys that haven’t been around a lot of success to have that winner’s mentality that we’re trying to preach over and over and over again,” Eagles coach Brad Davis said.
“They played a little harder than us down the stretch, which is a little frustrating. We were concerned with our consistency throughout the year, and I think we saw tonight that we were still inconsistent. We looked like a good football team at some points and looked like not a very good football team at other times.”
Davis said Carlisle showed its will to win by grabbing control of the game when it mattered the most.
“When that’s happening to you, we’ve got to have guys step up and say, ‘That’s not going to happen anymore,’ ” Davis said. “I’m not sure we had a whole lot of that tonight.”
Eaton got outgained 365-114 in yardage. Puckett ran 10 times for 71 yards before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury in the third quarter, and Venable (8 of 12 for 40 yards) and Jordan Lewis (2 of 4 for 8 yards) both saw time at quarterback. Venable was intercepted once by Moore.
Mays matched his career high in rushing attempts and found success with a bulldozing style of running.
“That’s kind of what I do,” Mays said. “It’s just send me up the middle a lot, and I run as hard as I can and give it all I’ve got. That’s all I can do.”
The Eagles will take a three-game losing streak into next Friday’s home game against Valley View.
E: Caleb Puckett 14 run (Anna Black kick)
C: Jake Moore 16 run (Ande Allison kick)
E: Chip Parker 55 fumble return (Kick failed)
C: D.J. Chambers 34 run (Allison kick)
C: Spencer Mays 7 run (Allison kick)
C: Chambers 4 run (Allison kick)
E: Zac Schmidt 8 pass from Ryan Venable (Black kick)