Maybe the white ‘C’ inscription on each side of the red helmets stands for more than just Carthage. Maybe it’s short for Clutch Cardiac or even more appropriately Friday afternoon at AT&T Stadium, Champions … once again.
Especially after the ’Dawgs buoyed by a defense that weathered an early two touchdown onslaught came away with six takeaways, leading to 21 points. Or an offense that methodically wore Abilene Wylie down over the final 24 minutes of play for an impressive 31-17 victory in the Class 4A DI Championship Game.
DL Austin Russell recoved two fumbles lighting the fuse in earning the Defensive Player of the Game honors, while the Offensive award, voted on by the media covering the game, went to RB Keaontay Ingram, who bludgeoned the opposing Bulldogs, for 180 yards and two touchdowns rushing, 23 receiving yards and 17 via kickoff returns.
It’s hard to argue with numbers such as Carthage’s 41-5 playoff record since Coach Scott Surratt took the reins of the program, or the championship trophies signifying the 2008, ’09, and ’10, UIL Championships, then again in 2013 and now 2016.
If you had not before, put Surratt’s name where it belongs among coaching hierarchy.
“It’s not about me,” Surratt said ”No, it’s about our coaches, our players and staff, the time and hard work they all contribute. It’s about working together.”
Much like this team had done since its ‘District of Doom’ (9-4A) schedule began with back-to-back losses to Henderson and Kilgore, and then in five of the six playoff games in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter, these ’Dawgs made the most of their chances to persevere.
Carthage capitalized on six Wylie turnovers … five in the second half, enroute to its 10th victory in a row.
Defensive coordinator Darren Preston had his charges ready when needed to answer a couple of Wylie touchdowns, coming on Zach Smith completions of 32 and 5 yards to Gatlin Martin to give Wylie a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes of the contest
Besides Russell’s two fumble recoveries, the Bulldogs came away with four interceptions, two each by Mehki Colbert and Mason Graham.
Linebacker Jase Dixon and defensive ends Tre Gatlin and Montario Wilson sacked Smith and combined for five of the eight Carthage tackles for loss. Russell forced a fumble and Gatlin forced the other. Junior linebacker Mykel Gates, constantly harassed Wylie ballcarriers, in leading 9-4A’s third-place playoff entry in tackles with five.
Trailing 14-0, quarterback Kason Davis rallied the Carthage troops, directing a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive and closing it with a 25-yard strike to Dewaylon Ingram with just five seconds left in the first period.
“It was important to get one somewhere,” said Surratt on being behind by 14.
Ingram scored his first of two touchdowns in the game on a two-yard plunge, after Russell’s initial fumble recovery at the Wylie 19. The Bulldogs knotted the score on Brandon Medrano’s second of four extra points to go with a 26-yard field goal later in the quarter which gave Carthage its first lead of the contest.
Wylie answered though with a 27-yard field goal by its kicker Cameron Hanna with four seconds remaining in the second quarter to stop the bleeding and tie the score for the second time.
The second half, proved to be all Carthage.
“You can’t say enough about our offensive line,” Surratt continued, referencing the play of seniors Peyton Bickham, Tanner Elliottt, James Ebarb and Josh Gradberg across the front “especially in the second half, and Keontay’s running for wearing them down.”
“Congratulations to Carthage. They played power football. Their kids got after it more than we did in the second half,” said longtime Wylie coach Hugh Sandifer.
Davis, who closed out his only season as a starting QB at Carthage, capped an eight play, 43-yard drive with a one-yard sneak. His score gave the Bulldogs a touchdown cushion with less than a quarter to play and came on the heels of Colbert’s second pick and a 26-yard return.
Keaonty Ingram, meanwhile, finished his junior season by sealing the victory with a 14-yard scoring dash with 3:49 left to play. Ingram, who has received an FBS Division I offer the last couple of weeks from TCU,rushed for 2,244 yards.
Davis was 12 of 21 passing for 134 yards and a touchdown. His favorite receivers were Dewaylon Ingram (4-67, 1), Keaontay Ingram (3-23) and TE Gradberg (3-14). Colbert contributed with two catches for 30 yards and Davis clutched an eight-yard Dee Bowens completion.
Carthage held a significant 343 to 240 edge in total yardage. Smith was 9 of 18 passing for 147 yards. RB Brooks Pepper led the 73-yard rushing attack with 45 yards. Smith added 25 on 10 carries.
Carthage was 0-for-9 on third-down conversions at one point, but finished 4 of 13. Where they failed on third down, Carthage made Wylie pay on fourth, converting 4 of 4 chances. Wylie, the 3-4A DI winner was 2 of 8 on third-down conversions and 1 of 2 on fourth downs.