Sycamore routs Carmel in 2nd round
Zack Crawford and the Sycamore football team made an early statement.
Hit in the backfield on a third-and-7, Crawford fought his way for a first down. Joey Puleo scored on the next play, and the rout was underway for the Spartans in a 43-0 win against Carmel on Saturday in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
"I came through and they wrapped me up, but I knew we needed the first down," Crawford said. "So I just put my head down and broke free. And then Joey and the line did a great job on the next play."
Crawford was one of three Sycamore backs with at least 78 yards in the game. He had 91 yards on 12 carries, and coach Joe Ryan said that third-down run -- his first carry of the game -- was very important.
"It was a third-down run, and there was contact. We didn't have it," Ryan said. "He ran through a couple tackles and got us a first down, then we scored the touchdown after that. It was a big sequence for us."
The game was played with a very strong wind, and Carmel (7-4) was attacking into that breeze in the first quarter. The Corsairs tried to get Donovan Dey going on the ground, but went three-and-out on their first two possessions.
Their first punt went 3 yards, setting the Spartans (11-0) up at the Carmel 15. On their second possession, they started at the Carmel 44 and scored on a 2-yard run by Puleo.
"Having the wind in the first quarter and being able to get up two scores was big, too," Ryan said. "They had to punt twice into the wind, and it gave us a short field. It was huge to be up 14-0 early."
The Corsairs put together their first drive once they got the wind at their backs, marching down to the Sycamore 33. But Kaden Ladas picked Jonathan Weber at the line, and then Sycamore rattled off a long drive of their own, capped by a 7-yard run by Meier for a 21-0 lead.
Sycamore had a chance for a fourth first-half score after Kiefer Tarnoki picked Weber and the Spartans took over on the Carmel 25, but couldn't get in during the final 40 seconds of the half.
"They played in the same weather we did," Carmel coach Jason McKie said. "We didn't execute. Bottom line is we don't execute, things don't go our way."
The Spartans scored on their first possession of the second half, a 78-yard drive that ended with a 51-yard run by Puleo, who ran for 109 yards and three scores on 13 carries.
Carmel put together its longest drive of the game and got down inside the 5 thanks to a 44-yard pass from Jonathon Weber to Torrey French. It actually seemed to go for a touchdown at first, but a block in the back behind the play as French was crossing into the end zone brought it back to the Sycamore 19.
The Corsairs ran four straight times with Dey, including the last two from the 1. Crawford and Puleo made the stops to keep him out of the end zone and preserve the shutout.
"Our O-line and defense worked their [butts] off today," Crawford said. "The team we were playing, they were a lot bigger than us, but we proved if you keep your levels right, you can have success."
With the running clock for the last three minutes of the fourth quarter after Sycamore touchdowns by Tyler Curtis and Diego Garcia, the Corsairs put together one final chance to score. Weber found room to scramble on the last play of the game from the Sycamore 13, but was stopped by Miles Galindo at the goal line as time expired.
"It was special to watch our guys," Ryan said. "They were outsized, obviously, but I thought our guys played fast and played physical, and that's what we always preach."
Sycamore outgained the Corsairs 294-219. Dey ran 30 times or 71 yards, and 79 total yards for the Corsairs came against the Sycamore backups on the final drive with the running clock.
"I'm proud of the way our team battled," McKie said. "We only had six seniors this year. I'm proud of the way we performed. Obviously this one didn't go the way we wanted, but those guys laid the foundation of something great."