Despite the cold weather, Castleberry’s players, coaches, and supporters lingered about on the gridiron at Farrington Field for awhile on Thursday night savoring their win and first playoff berth in six years.
The Lions (7-3, 4-2 in District 6-4A D1) had earned a spot with their 21-7 win over Benbrook (4-6, 2-4).
It was also their first winning season since 1994.
First-year coach Juan Silva attributed the win mainly to his defense.
“Our defense stepped up and played really well,” he said. “To give up only seven points to a team like Benbrook is really a big deal.”
Castleberry allowed only 207 yards and 12 first downs while accumulating 367 yards and 13 first downs, mostly on the ground, of its own. With their starting quarterback out with injury, Silva knew they would need a big game from his defensive unit.
Junior Drew Aguillon was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament three weeks ago late in the game against Lake Worth.
Castleberry hung on to win, 42-41.
James Ivy took over for him and since then, the Lions lost to Dunbar, 20-13, but beat Diamond-Hill Jarvis, 71-31, and Benbrook to finish the season in the win-plus column and a postseason berth.
As a result of Aguillon’s injury, “we’ve had to battle adversity the last couple of weeks shuffling some players around,” said Silva. “The mentality from day one was to make the playoffs. We didn’t care how. That was our one goal all year. Some people said we couldn’t win and make the playoffs. To prove to our kids, especially our seniors who’ve been here a long time, that we could win was really a big deal.”
Ivy and his teammates made several big plays. Ivy rushed five times for 125 yards. Two long running plays by him in the first half set up one touchdown and the other scored another to stake Castleberry to a 14-0 lead by intermission.
On their first possession, Ivy broke free into the secondary for a 46-yard run to the 7-yard line. It came on fourth-and-3. On the following play, Lonnie Adams scored. It was one of two touchdown runs by Adams. He had the other one late in the third quarter from 62 yards out for the final score.
Ivy scored the third one also from long distance for 88 yards in the second quarter. A punt had pinned the Lions back to their 3-yard line. Undaunted, three plays later, Ivy again broke through the line from the 12, broke two tackles, and went the distance for a 14-0 lead.
In the second half, Benbrook was finally able to engineer a scoring drive. The Bobcats moved 63 yards in 13 plays with a 12-yard pass from William Green to Chad Hutchinson in the end zone to make it 14-7 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
The touchdown came on fourth-and-9. On the scoring drive, the Bobcats converted two fourth downs.
For the game, they were four of seven on fourth down conversions. The euphoria was short-lived, however, when less than a minute later and three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Adams had his 62-yard scoring run to reinstate the 14-point lead.
With the win and a Lake Worth loss, the Lions are the No. 3 seed going into the playoffs.