Tony Dudik knows the frustrations of ending up on the wrong side of a blowout.
The veteran Bishop LeBlond coach spent two years building the Golden Eagles back up from the very depths of despair. Dudik and LeBlond have been there.
So when an inadvertent whistle negated a Carrollton touchdown in the fourth quarter Thursday night, Dudik lobbied the officials to allow the Trojans’ points to stand. The pleas could not be rewarded, but Carrollton scored five plays later anyway for some consolation in a 38-6 loss at Eagle Stadium in the first round of the Class 2 District 8 tournament.
LeBlond improved to 6-4 and advances to play the winner of Friday’s night’s Trenton at Brookfield matchup next Wednesday.
Don’t expect the Eagles to take the success for granted.
“Every game now could be our final game, and it hadn’t even entered my mind,” Dudik said. “We’ve grown a lot; there’s no doubt about that in the program. The biggest thing I can say is these kids deserve some success and deserve to have some positive things happen for them.”
For the most part, LeBlond played the part of a No. 1 seed and not just because the opening matchup came against eighth-seed Carrollton (0-10).
The Eagles earned the top seed over one-loss Lathrop, thanks in most part to a strength of schedule inflated thanks to a tough Midland Empire Conference slate. Carrollton managed only 42 yards of offense in the first half out of its veer option and ended up with its minimal yards smattered almost evenly between running backs Keagan Eiserer (43), Keaton Sullivan (34) and Ridge Mathis (25) and quarterback Mark Hundley (37).
With the Trojans slowed to a crawl, LeBlond overcame a slightly sluggish start to produce an overall dominant effort.
Running back Austin Dawkins scored three touchdowns and rumbled for 214 yards on 27 carries, and his final score late in the third quarter started a running clock with LeBlond ahead 38-0. The senior bruiser’s effort helped nullify a spotty first quarter that included a trio of penalties and a pair of fumbles — one lost when wide receiver Tyler Thrasher spilled the ball away inside Carrollton’s 5 to halt a likely scoring march.
“Maybe we thought too much, thinking ahead to the next games,” LeBlond junior lineman Grant Thrasher said. “Once we got our heads into the game, we were into it. We were ready to win. We were ready to fight.”
The majority of LeBlond’s remaining 403 yards of offense came on quarterback Matthew McCullough’s eight completions.
The junior accounted for 183 yards, and all of them came after Dawkins’ runs helped LeBlond build a 10-0 first-quarter lead. McCullough connected with junior wide receiver Patrick Dillon three times for 80 yards in the second quarter, including touchdown strikes of 28 and 19 yards.
A 33-yarder from McCullough to Dillon set up Dawkins’ 6-yard scoring run inside of a minute to cap a successful 2-minute drill to put the Eagles up 31-0 at halftime.
“(Dawkins) being able to pound down the middle every single play, then we’re able to go down field and throw a pass,” said Dillon, who finished with four catches for 101 yards to take up the majority of McCullough’s 8-for-14 showing. “We know they’re keying Dawkins, and they’re expecting Dawkins. He opens up a lot of things for us.”
LeBlond’s win assured its first winning season since 2001, and the Eagles’ second-round district matchup marks the first chance to play more than 10 games in a season since the early 1980s. They went 2-28 combined the past three seasons, including back-to-back 1-9 campaigns in Dudik’s first two years at the helm.
That’s what makes the present so enjoyable for LeBlond’s players and coaches.