The Carmi-White County Bulldogs had their season come to an end on Saturday at the hands of the Athens Warriors in the first round of the IHSA Football Playoffs by a final score of 48-8. The Bulldogs end the year at 7-3, Athens improves to 8-2 and they will host Decatur-St. Theresa in Round 2.
Coming into Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs knew that they would have to play their best game of the season in order to get a win, and that would be tough to do against a very talented Athens squad. The Warriors showed their talent right out of the gate. After the Bulldogs punted on their first possession, Athens handed it off to Camden Austin on their first play from scrimmage, and he went 64 yards for a touchdown. It was 7-0 Warriors just 3 and a half minutes into the contest.
The Bulldogs offense looked much better on their second possession. After a nice kickoff return by Branten Stockton, the Dogs set up shop near midfield and they used a mix of the run and pass to find the endzone. After a first down run by Draxtyn Aud, quarterback Warren Legg dropped back and delivered a perfect pass to Isaac King who got behind the Warriors defense for a 33-yard touchdown. King ran in the 2-point conversion and all of the sudden CWC led 8-7 with 6:20 left to go in the 2nd quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Warriors to regain the lead, five minutes to be exact. Athens marched right back down the field and capped off their drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Drew Cushman to Camden Bigard. After Athens failed on the two-point attempt, Carmi trailed 13-8 with 1:06 to go in the first quarter.
On the first play of the ensuing Bulldog possession, King took the handoff for a 9-yard gain, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. Once facing 1st & 20, the Bulldogs couldn’t move the ball much and were forced to punt. This is when Athens began to take over the game. The Bulldogs defense had chances to get off the field, but the Warriors converted a 4th & 1 near midfield and a 3rd & 13 near the Bulldog 20. Facing a 4th & 4 from the CWC 7 yard line, Cushman dropped back to pass and the Bulldogs brought a blitz. Cushman zig-zagged around in the backfield before finding a wide-open Cory Craig in the back corner of the endzone to extend the Warriors’ lead to 21-8 with 3:47 to go in the half.
The Bulldogs then punted the ball away after three plays, and it only took one more play for Athens to yet again find the endzone. Camden Austin scored his second touchdown of the day, this time from 75 yards out to silence the crowd at Harrington-Jeffries Sports Complex. Athens led 28-8 at the half.
Athens didn’t let up in the second half whatsoever, and the Bulldog defense simply could not get a stop. It took the Warriors a little over five minutes to score again, this time a 5-yard run by Craig. 35-8 Athens with 6:51 to go in the 3rd.
Carmi’s offense could not get going in the third quarter. Athens continued to stack the box and bring blitzes defensively and the Bulldogs had no answer. Athens scored twice in the 4th quarter to put the finishing touches on their 9th consecutive 1st round playoff victory.
“Up front, they (Athens) really controlled the line of scrimmage,” said CWC Head Coach Kurt Simon. “We were having trouble staying on blocks, and they were more athletic than what we have seen this year.”
“Athens played a great game and they have an excellent program, and I told our kids we have nothing to hang our heads for.”
The Bulldogs end the season on a three-game losing streak after starting 2022 with a 7-0 record. There is no question that this team had the potential to make a playoff run, but all good things must come to an end.
For this year’s seniors, their tremendous football careers come to an end. When these seniors entered their junior year in 2021, Carmi-White County had gone a combined 7-17 in the previous three seasons, and hadn’t been in the postseason since 2017. The last two seasons saw the Bulldogs go a combined 13-7 and make the playoffs twice. This group of seniors will be missed dearly.
“Our seniors, as a group of kids from when they were freshmen, all the way up until now, did everything that you asked, and some things that you didn’t ask, they did anyway,” Simon stated post game. “This is one of the most enjoyable groups that I’ve ever been able to coach.”
Congratulations to the Bulldogs for a great season, and congratulations to Isaac King, Warren Legg, Tyler Goemaat, Draxtyn Aud, Branten Stockton, Layne Gwaltney, Nate Brown, Jaxon Staton, Chase Pringle and Bryson Moore for fantastic football careers.