The beauty of long kickoff returns has not been lost on Carlisle High School football coach Mike Brown.
Brown gets to watch Indians senior D.J. Chambers on a regular basis, and it’s quite an enjoyable experience.
“I’m convinced that great returners like that just see things differently than everybody else,” Brown said of Chambers, who rocketed to 94- and 84-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in last Friday’s 43-41 overtime victory over Oakwood. “Obviously he’s fast and has been in the weight room, but he has a lot of natural ability.
“He sees holes that he knows he can get through. And once he gets through the front line, we like to call him an angle breaker. Guys will have angles — they’re supposed to be safeties or whatever — but he’s so fast that he breaks those angles, and it usually ends up being a touchdown.”
Chambers is a sprinter who excels in track. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound slotback showed more of that speed in the final minute of regulation in the Oakwood game when he scored on a 60-yard pass from classmate Jake Moore.
“D.J. finds exactly where he wants to go, and he makes one cut,” Brown said. “Somebody might get an arm on him, but if you don’t have two arms around him or a couple guys, he’s just going to run right through it because he’s one of the strongest guys on the field.”
Chambers missed the Week 2 win over Washington Court House Miami Trace because of cramping issues and was limited against Oakwood. That was part of the reason he wasn’t expecting to make personal history with two kickoff-return TDs in the same game.
“I was kind of nervous going out there because I haven’t been out there that much on special teams this year,” Chambers said. “I don’t get the ball kicked to me that much, so I kind of have to make it count every kick I get.”
The OT-forcing touchdown reception was another big moment in a contest that included 311 all-purpose yards for Chambers.
“Jake was trying to get the coach to call that play,” he said. “It was a wheel route. They ended up doing it, and Jake was like, ‘Just run as fast as you can and I’ll throw it to you.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ ”
Senior fullback Spencer Mays ran for a touchdown in overtime and added what proved to be the winning points on a conversion run. He also stripped an Oakwood runner and returned the ball for a TD.
“You’re just so into the game … you don’t really take it in until afterwards,” Mays said. “A big win like this is always something to remember.”
Mays (6-2, 210) has moved from linebacker to the line this year and is the Indians’ defensive catalyst, according to Brown. Senior linebacker Braden Rauch (5-10, 165) has three sacks, and two-way senior lineman Gage Smith (6-0, 240) has a fumble recovery and an interception.
Chambers isn’t playing defense right now to keep his legs fresh for producing points on offense and special teams.
“Our main focus is just to play as hard as we can and play fast and do what we’re coached to do,” Mays said. “That’s where success comes from.”
Moore (5-10, 180), a senior quarterback/free safety, is one of multiple players going both ways for Carlisle (2-1). He’s got a pick on defense and is 21 of 39 for 279 yards and two touchdowns at QB.
The Indians’ roster is thin. They only have 39 players in grades 9-12.
“Who we have is who we have. We’ll coach the guys who want to play,” Brown said. “I haven’t talked to many coaches who have said they’ve stayed the same or gone up in numbers. Most of them are seeing kind of the same thing.”
Carlisle will begin defense of its Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship at home Friday night against Waynesville (0-3).
The Spartans are on a 13-game losing streak, but seem to be slowly improving. They’ve been outscored 108-52 this year. After three games in 2016, WHS had been outpointed 161-42.
“They’re a dangerous team with some weapons on the outside,” Brown said. “They’re good at getting the ball out on the edges and trying to make you defend the whole field.”
The Indians defeated Waynesville 47-14 last season and 21-20 in 2015.