Carlyle special player for Estancia

Senior has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a TD in Eagles' last four games.

November 18, 2010|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza,
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

Matt Carlyle returned two kickoffs 92 yards for touchdowns and a punt 83 yards for a touchdown in the final four Orange Coast League games. He learned how to avoid contact on special teams three years ago as a freshman at Estancia High.

Carlyle earned a shot to move up to varsity as a ninth-grader after an injury to the starting quarterback. The Eagles wanted depth at the position.

Carlyle did not even play quarterback on the frosh-soph level. The team ran the Wing-T offense, so Carlyle said the varsity coaching staff then asked for the most athletic guy on the team.

They got Carlyle. The football pads and helmet probably weighed more than Carlyle back then.

Classmates called the 105-pound Carlyle "Mr. Varsity" because it is rare to see a freshman on varsity. Carlyle did not play much. He stood on the sideline during games. It was probably hard to spot him there because he was barely 5-foot-4.


Then came the little guy's shot to contribute.

"I was on kickoff one time," said Carlyle, whose duty was to contain the outside. "I went down to try and make the tackle. I think it was against Costa Mesa. They had one of the bigger guys [blocking and he] was right in front of me. I tried the best I could just to get around him. I tried to avoid contact as much as I could."

Carlyle survived and he is now dodging would-be tacklers as a senior return man.

He is five inches taller, 40 pounds heavier, and real fast. In a matter of seconds, Carlyle can cover an entire field and electrify a crowd.

Fans at Jim Scott Stadium last week rose to their feet during one of Carlyle's returns. He fielded a punt inside the Eagles' 20-yard line and then took it to the house, helping Estancia rout Costa Mesa, 35-6, in the Battle for the Bell.

Most teams try to boot the ball away from Carlyle whenever possible. Costa Mesa decided to punt the ball toward Carlyle late in the first half of the rivalry game and it paid the price.

Carlyle's first punt return for a touchdown this season gave Estancia a 21-0 lead. The game was practically over at halftime as the Eagles were on their way to clinching an outright league title for the first time in 21 years.

Closing out the regular season with a perfect 5-0 league record against their cross-town rivals never felt any sweeter for Carlyle. He was on the 2007 Estancia team, which shared the league crown with the Mustangs.

The latest title belonged just to the Eagles. Special teams played a major role in making sure it happened.

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