It’s been a long 2 weeks for the Carmi-White County Bulldog football team. After Vienna-Goreville canceled their 2023 varsity season, the Bulldogs were left with an empty slate on their schedule. Numerous unanswered phone calls and ignored emails left the Bulldogs with no choice but take the forfeit win and use Week 3 as a “bye week.”
The forfeit win can either be a blessing or a curse for CWC at the end of the season. Although the Bulldogs improve their record to 3-0 with the forfeit, they will not receive any playoff points for the “win.” With Vienna-Goreville not competing in 2023, the Black Diamond Conference shrinks to 9 teams and will not be considered a closed conference. In Illinois, if a team in a 10-team conference wins 5 games, they are automatically granted enough playoff points to earn an IHSA playoff berth. Therefore, if the Bulldogs were to finish the season with a 5-4 record, the chances of them making the playoffs may not be in their favor.
The forfeit win may also help the Bulldogs in terms of depth and health. It’s no secret that CWC is low on numbers, and with just 26 players on the roster, they need to be as healthy as possible each and every week. The Bulldogs do enter Week 3 with a fully healthy roster, and there is no question the extra week off helped heal some cuts and bruises.
Now it’s time to turn the attention to Carmi’s Week 3 opponent, the Sesser-Valier Red Devils. Sesser-Valier is coming off of their 6th consecutive playoff appearance in 2022. The Red Devils handed Fairfield a 22-12 loss last week in a game which SV led 22-0 at halftime. Sesser’s biggest component is their explosive offense, led by senior quarterback Colt Packer. So far this season, Packer is 2nd in the BDC in passing yards with 342, and he leads the league in passing touchdowns with 8. Packer is also a threat with his legs, rushing for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns through the first 3 games.
“Their quarterback is the real deal,” said CWC head coach Kurt Simon. “He’s very athletic and he can hurt you with his arms and his legs.”
Packer’s main target through the air has been junior Jaxon Borta. Borta has brought in 5 passes for 144 yards and 4 touchdowns. Senior Dezmond Malone has caught 7 passes for 95 yards and 3 touchdowns. Malone however, does most of his damage on the ground. Malone rushed for over 500 yards in 2022, and he already rushed for over 350 through 3 games this season. Although Parker has been effective through the air this year, they are still very much a run-first team.
Defensively, Sesser-Valier will line up with 4 down linemen and 4 linebackers. This is a defense that is well-suited for the Black Diamond Conference, due to the high number of teams that run that ball in tight formations, like the Bulldogs. With 8-9 players in the box every play, Sesser-Valier makes it very difficult for teams to run between the tackles. This game will be won at the line of scrimmage.
The last time the Bulldogs were on the field, they defeated Hamilton County 18-8. It wasn’t a great performance on offense by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bulldogs were still able to rush for 302 yards while possessing the ball for over 30 minutes. The problem for Carmi was finishing drives, who uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice. The Bulldogs were able to find the endzone three times, twice from junior Noah Pollard. Pollard had his first break-out game at the varsity level in Week 2, running for 100 yards on 15 carries and those two scores. Expect Pollard to see more carries as the season prolongs, but still expect a heavy dose of Caleb Seibers. Despite playing one less game, Seibers still leads all of Southern Illinois in rushing yards with 362.
Pollard and Seibers are also leading the way defensively for the Bulldogs, as Pollard leads the team with 9 tackles and Seibers sits in 2nd place with 8. Despite the offensive struggles in Week 2, the Bulldog defense single-handedly won them that game, and they will have a tall task ahead of them once again.
Prior to 2022, Sesser-Valier had dominated the head-to-head series against the Bulldogs. Last season, Carmi came into Sesser and defeated the Red Devils 44-12, giving them their first win over SV since 2014.
Both teams are tied atop the BDC with 3-0 records, Johnston City is the only other unbeaten.
“I think it’s fair to say that Sesser is the best team in the conference after the first 3 games,” said Simon. “They’re athletic, quick and very solid defensively. We will have to come ready to play, and we cannot turn the ball over.”
Calpreps.com predicts that the Bulldogs will win a nailbiter, 28-24.
Kickoff is set at Harrington-Jeffries Sports Complex for 7 PM, the Taylor Eye Care pre-game show on 97.3 FM WRUL and the WRUL Sports YouTube Channel will begin at 6:45 PM.