Young Carlisle Surprises Many Going Into Bye Week at 5-0, Ranked No. 10 in the State
When you go into a new football season with almost all new faces on your team, that has to make a coach wonder what he can expect.
Carlisle coach Rocky Baker will be the first to admit he had plenty of questions about his 2016 team, which returned just three total starters from a 10-win team in 2015.
"It was the first time in the 11 years that I've been here that I wasn't really sure of what we had," Baker said. "I didn't have any expectations one way or another. I just wanted us to play hard, compete and believe we could go out and win."
Well, winning is all Carlisle has done so far this season. The Indians are enjoying a week off after coming out on top in all five games they have played, winning by an average of almost 33 points per game in the process. This week they entered the Associated Press Poll as the 10th-ranked team in Texas in Class 2A.
"At 5-0, I'm ecstatic," Baker said. "I couldn't be prouder of the way our kids have come together. Last year our team had a lot of leadership and I think this team has fed off that. They're creating their own identity and winning football games."
Carlisle has a history of having big playmakers, including the likes of Gunner Baker, Caleb Colley, Bryce McGowan and many more. Baker said this year's team has a completely different makeup, that despite not having one primary star player, the Indians have a lot of players who can make an impact.
Nine different players have scored on the ground so far this season and eight have recorded a reception. Baker also has had three different players take snap under center.
"We used to have one or two kids who could win a game by themselves, but these guys have to do it all. We play a lot of people for us to be a small school. We carry 28 players and all 28 play," Baker said. "It's a good thing to have that many kids who can contribute. They've gelled together and they compete and practice hard. We have to do the little things to win and these guys do it."
Carlisle hasn't played like it has almost all new faces on offense. The Indians are averaging more than 42 points per game, including putting up 45, 65 and 49 points in their first three games.
"My son (Clay) is our offensive coordinator and he's got a very good scheme. He's brought in a lot of different things and kind of changed our old-school mentality," Baker said. "It's different -- we've run the double wing, spread and everything else there is in the past -- but we've adapted to it. I like it. I just try to stay out of the way and let them do their thing."
The most surprising part about this year's team, Baker said, has been the Indians' defense. Outside of allowing 27 points to Overton in a 49-27 win in Week 3, Carlisle hasn't allowed more than 10 points in any other game.
The Indians have forced 11 interceptions, recovered nine fumbles and recorded 16 sacks through five games.
"If you know me you know I'm a little brutally honest and I've even told my kids ... I've just been completely shocked at our defense. I had no idea we'd be able to slow anybody down, much less stop them," Baker said. "We only had one kid back this year and we moved him from corner to linebacker. We had brand new people and had to figure out who was going to go where. They play hard and we've caused quite a few turnovers. I'm so excited the way our defense has come to play."
Baker said his team is taking the week off to get healthy first, and from there it's preparing for what the Indians coach called "the district from Hell." The Indians are set to face Cushing, Alto, Joaquin, Shelbyville and San Augustine in District 11-2A Division I, which is one of the deepest and toughest districts in the state. Shelbyville eliminated the Indians from the playoffs in 2015, winning 21-18 in the area round.
"We've told the kids one game at a time, just like we've been doing the first give. We're trying our best to get healthy right now, and we're doing our film and practices like a regular week but we're just trying to limit contact as much as we can," Baker said. "In this district it's going to be who gets the breaks and plays the best. We're going to have to get some breaks go our way and play almost perfect football."