By PAUL STONE
Carlisle’s defense flexed its muscle in the second half as the Indians held off the Cayuga Wildcats, 20-13, Friday night in a non-district matchup of Class A squads at Arrowhead Stadium.
With its offense sputtering throughout the second half, Cayuga trimmed Carlisle’s seemingly-comfortable lead to 20-13 with 26 seconds remaining in the game on a 13-yard touchdown hookup from Chandler Rigdon-to-Chantz Holland.
One play earlier, Holland had caught a 45-yard pass from Rigdon to advance the ball to the Carlisle 13.
Needing an onside kick to keep its faint hopes alive, Cayuga came up short as Carlisle’s Jared Poncho caught the attempt in the air and the Indians had held off the Wildcats.
After leading, 13-6, at the half, Carlisle had Cayuga pinned deep in its own territory, facing a third-and-9 from its own 4 with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
On third down, Rigdon was scrambling on the shadow of his goal line when he attempted to throw an out route which was jumped by Carlisle's Shadow Sanders who caught it at the 12 and waltzed into the Wildcats' end zone.
Adan Sanchez tacked on the extra point and Carlisle was in charge, 20-6, with 2:49 left in the third.
After moving the ball at times during the first half, Cayuga's offense struggled mightily for most of the final two quarters before coming to life in the final minutes, putting together an 11-play, 93-yard drive to pull within seven points in the final seconds.
Although somewhat skewed by the final drive, Cayuga actually outgained Carlisle, 259-242, in the total yardage department.
Cayuga's D'Onte Jackson led the Wildcats' rushing attack with 104 yards on 13 carries.
Carlisle led, 13-6, at halftime after an evenly-matched opening two quarters.
Trailing, 6-0, midway through the second quarter, Cayuga forced the first turnover of the contest when the Wildcats’ Wesley Rigdon picked off a Baker pass and returned it seven yards to the Carlisle 30.
On the first play following the interception, Jackson busted off a 21-yard gainer as Cayuga set up shop first-and-goal at the Indian 9.
Two plays later, Cayuga sophomore quarterback Chandler Rigdon followed Jackson’s block straight up the middle on a 5-yard touchdown keeper.
Drew Slater’s PAT was blocked and the game was tied at 6 with 3:45 remaining in the opening half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Indians’ Caleb Colley caught a short Cayuga kick and returned it 18 yards to midfield.
A 17-yard strike from Baker-to-Poncho moved Carlisle to the Cayuga 20 and a late hit penalty against the Wildcats at the end of the play pushed the ball all the way to the 10.
Four plays later on fourth-and-goal from inside the Cayuga 1, the Indians’ Tiburcio Garcia scored on an inside handoff as Carlisle led, 13-6, with 1:27 to go until intermission following Sanchez’ PAT.
Following a three-and-out by Cayuga, the Indians got a 25-yard punt return by Poncho to start at the Wildcat 20 with 11 seconds left until halftime.
Baker then promptly hit Poncho with a nice 19-yard pass to the Cayuga 1 with six seconds still remaining.
Carlisle, however, came up empty as Sanchez’ 18-yard field goal on the half’s final play was blocked by a host of Cayuga defenders.
Carlisle, which hurt its cause with seven penalties in the game’s opening 15 minutes, finished the first half with 147 total yards offense, while Cayuga had 115.
Jackson led the Wildcats’ offense with eight carries for 51 yards.