Illinois High School Football News

Ethan McCarter returns two punts for scores; DeKalb beats Waubonsie Valley 49-13

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AURORA – In a game in which the DeKalb offense couldn’t get things rolling, defense and special teams kept the Barbs afloat in a 49-13 win at Waubonsie Valley on Friday.

“Whenever special teams and defense plays good, that’s when we win games,” said Ethan McCarter, who returned punts of 85 and 72 yards for touchdowns - his third and fourth returns for touchdowns of the season.

McCarter started the scoring for the Barbs (4-2, 2-1 DuPage Valley) with an 85-yard punt return. Then in the third quarter, with the Barbs up 21-6 but the Warriors pushing into the red zone, LaBrian Carrington forced Tyler Threat to fumble at the end of an 11-yard run, returning it 49 yards - the first of three forced turnovers for the Barbs.

“It hurts not only there, but on the pickup and the return,” Waubonsie Valley coach Tom Baumgartner said. “Tyler had a great game for us. It was debatable whether his forward progress was stopped, but it’s football.”

Talen Tate covered 31 yards on two plays, including a 23-yard scoring run to go up 28-6 in control of the game.

“At that point we only had a two-score lead and they were driving,” DeKalb coach Derek Schneeman said. “I thought they did a good job moving the ball and I thought [Threat] did a good job running the ball for them all night. But we had him stood up, LaBrian came in and knifed it out and returned it 40 yards. That was a big momentum-shifting play, one we desperately needed at the time.”

Waubonsie Valley (0-6, 0-3) started driving from its own 13, getting into DeKalb territory. But Dom Ohlinger leveled Threat for a loss, then Nathan Hoard sacked Luke Elsea for a big loss back to the Waubonsie Valley 35.

On the punt, McCarter fielded in at the 28, took it up the right sideline, and eluded the last two tacklers at around the Waubonsie Valley 30 for his second punt return touchdown of the game, pushing the lead to 35-6 as the third quarter came to end.

“He’s just electric,” Schneeman said. “He’s explosive. He sees the field well. He’s very shifty and his lateral quickness is exceptional. He’s able to stop on a dime and make guys miss.”

Waubonsie Valley coach Tom Baumgartner said the plan was to keep kicks away from McCarter, but sometimes “high school kids try to execute and it doesn’t go the way they thought it would go.”

After McCarter staked the Barbs to a 7-0 lead on his 85-yard punt return in the first quarter, the Warriors answered back with a scoring drive of their own, aided by two personal foul calls on the Barbs to make the score 7-6 with 7:15 left in the first.

McCarter returned the ensuing kick for the score, but a block in the back backed the ball up to the DeKalb 45. Still, the Barbs got into the end zone on a 7-yard run by Jamari Brown. Xavier Dandridge had a 26-yard run on a sweep to set up the score.

“It feels good to go out there and make sure the offense doesn’t have to do the scoring,” McCarter said. “Just get the score quick, get the defense out there and do it again.”

The Barbs pushed the lead to 21-6 with 8:47 left in the second quarter on a 4-yard run by Tate. Adrian McVicar hit McCarter for a 13-yard gain on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive.

“It wasn’t the cleanest game at times, but I told the guys we’re playing good complementary football,” Schneeman said. “We’re doing things on special teams to give us good field position and scoring special team touchdowns not just because of Ethan McCarter but the guys who are taking pride in those units.”

Waubonsie Valley ran 18 of the last 22 plays of the first half but neither team scored the rest of the half.

“Defensively we give up plays at times but we’re pretty stingy when it gets in the red zone,” Schneeman said. “We turn the ball over and we give ourselves good position on offense. And offensively we took advantage of the opportunities we had.”

The Warriors added a second-half score on a 31-yard pass from Elsea to a wide-open Sean Bizon to make the score 35-13 with 7:37 left. DeKalb answered right back with a 73-yard run by Xavier Dandridge on a third-and-5 sweep with 5:44 left, pushing the lead to 42-13.

On the first play of the next drive, Ethan Tierney picked Elsea, the second turnover of the game. Three plays later, Tate ran for a 5-yard touchdown, the final of his three scores. The Barbs forced another turnover on the first play of the next drive, with Ohlinger recovering.

“We played better than we have been,” Baumgartner said. “The score probably doesn’t reflect that, but we played hard for four quarters. DeKalb is a good team. ... Tonight the kids gave everything they can, and we’re in a spot where we’re trying to battle each day and try to find a way to win one game.