Whittell football runs to first playoff win since 1991, beats Carlin 36-20
ZEPHYR COVE — The Whittell football team hosted its first postseason game more than two decades on Friday, Nov. 6, and delivered a stellar performance on its home field. The Warriors beat Carlin (Nev.) 36-20 in the Div. IV League Playoffs, advancing to the state tournament behind a strong running game and stout defense.
“It’s the biggest thing to go through our football program in a while,” Warriors senior Colin Buchholz said. “This is the beginning of a new season, and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Whittell (10-0) raced out to a 15-0 lead with scores on its first two possessions, setting the tone for a back-and-forth first quarter. The Div. IV West League champions took the opening drive of the game 65 yards in seven plays — all on the ground — to open the scoring.
Dismas Womack ran for a 4-yard score to cap the drive, and following a two-point conversion Whittell had an 8-0 lead with 9:42 left in the first quarter. The Warriors stopped Div. IV East League runner-up Carlin (9-2) on the ensuing possession, then used four more running plays to add to their lead.
“On that opening drive, it was nothing fancy — just punching out the yardage,” Warriors coach Phil Bryant said. “I was confident in the guys up front carving out holes.”
On the second drive, Buchholz faked a read handoff and ran 50 yards for a score that made it 15-0 with 6:31 left in the opening frame. Both teams traded scores on the next three possessions, and Whittell had a 22-14 after the first quarter while tweaking a new 4-3 defensive formation.
Carlin got on the board when Christian Taylor ran for a 4-yard score to make it 15-6 with 5:22 to play in the first quarter. Whittell responded three plays later with a Corey Huber 35-yard touchdown run, then the Railroaders drove 77 yards in seven plays — the visitors pulled within a score on a 16-yard run from quarterback Javas Leach.
“We had a little confusion in the beginning, but we figured it out,” Buchholz said. “We missed a lot of tackles — their running back was squirmy and we just had to grab him.”
While offense dominated the first 12 minutes, both defenses took over in a scoreless second quarter. Neither team could convert chances inside the red zone, and a Warriors’ missed field goal on the last play of the first half kept the hosts ahead 22-14 at the break.
The Railroaders got the ball to start the second half, and quickly moved into Whittell territory. Then in a two-play stretch, the Warriors produced a pair of big plays to take control of the game.
At the 37-yard line, Leach dropped back to pass with Carlin setting up a screen. Whittell pressure forced a high, shallow throw from the Railroaders’ quarterback that Kai Mangiaracina got under for an interception.
“It was huge,” Buchholz said. “He was in the right place at the right time, and our defensive ends went down on the quarterback pretty hard.”
One play after the interception, Womack took a pitch and ran 59 yards for a score that put Whittell ahead 30-14 less than three minutes into the second half. The junior ran down the sideline, then cut back inside in traffic at the 30-yard line on the way to his second score of the game.
“The blocking was really good and I hit the hole hard. I got out, cut back and scored,” Womack said. “It was a good team effort and everyone was blocking downfield.”
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Buchholz scrambled and found Caleb Moretti in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown that made it 36-14. Carlin pulled to within two scores on the next possession, but didn’t get any closer than that as Whittell closed out its first postseason win since 1991.
“It’s super special,” Womack said. “We haven’t had this good of a season in a long time and doing this is a great feeling.”
The Warriors controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to exact revenge against Carlin, who they lost to on the road in last year’s Div. IV League Playoffs. In advancing to the state semifinals, Whittell also made history — the 2015 team is the first in program history to win 10 games in a season.
“Our kids are resilient, they’re believers and they work really hard,” Bryant said. “We still have a young group, but they’re really capable of doing a lot of great things.”
Whittell ran for 378 yards against Carlin — Huber had 181 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries; Womack ran for 128 yards and a score on nine touches; and Buchholz added 84 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. In the air, Buchholz finished 5-of-12 passing for 56 yards and a score.
“If we can run power, we’re going to run power for the entire game,” Womack said. “We ran power for the entire game and it worked — we held our blocks and got off the ball fast.”
Leach finished 11-for-30 passing for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions — the junior also ran for 48 yards and a score. Saul Armendariz, Carlin’s main offensive threat, finished with 165 total yards and a touchdown, including 96 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Whittell advances to the Div. IV State semifinals, where it will host Div. IV Southern League No. 2 seed Spring Mountain (Las Vegas) (8-2) on Friday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. In the other semifinal, South top seed Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) (10-0) will play Div. IV West League second seed Virginia City (Nev.) (8-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. — the championship game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21, at a Northern Nevada site.
“It’s a new season — it’s a three-game season,” Bryant said. “We got game one, now there’s four of us left and we just have to focus and try to get better.”