CARTHAGE – After witnessing the first half between Joaquin and Carlisle on Friday, one wouldn't have expected a defensive play to be the deciding factor.

But when Louie Garza picked up a fumble in the fourth quarter, that's exactly what happened. Garza quickly glanced to make sure his path was clear before running in for the touchdown. The play gave the Indians the momentum they needed to pull out a 47-33 victory in the 2A Division I area round playoff game.

"The quarterback did a draw and turned to hand it off," Garza said. "They dropped it, all I did was pick it up, ran and tried to make a touchdown.

“I thought it changed the outcome of the game. If you looked at the score, it was pretty close. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Carlisle (12-0) held a slim 34-33 lead before the fumble, but the Rams were driving, already at the Indian 30. However, the 70-yard scoop-and-score seemed to deflate the Joaquin offense, which never scored after that.

"That was the play of the night," receiver and defensive back Jay Price said.

Joaquin (9-3) took its first lead with 9:13 in the third quarter after Connor Bragg caught a 17-yard touchdown.

The Rams held it for only 12 seconds.

Gerald Turner ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive to give Carlisle the lead back for good. Turner finished with 445 total yards (226 passing and 199 rushing) and six total touchdowns.

Plenty of that came in the first quarter, which was an offensive showcase. Neither defense came away with a stop.

Carlisle scored first with an 11-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper from Turner. Joaquin answered with a 9-yard run of its own from Hunter Gates.

Then, the floodgates opened.

Turner scored again on a 7-yard run that would be the first of four touchdowns in less than two minutes. Gates returned the favor on the kickoff, going 86 yards for a touchdown to tie the game once more.

By the end of the quarter, Carlisle led 28-21.

It was a big offensive night all around, with a combined 920 yards. Price also had a big night, with six catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be the final blow.

Carlisle coach Clay Baker said the performance on par with what the Indians are used to despite having to prepare for a bigger challenge on defense.

“We talked about how it was going to be a roller coaster," Baker said. "We’ve only punted 10 times all year. We talked about, ‘Don’t be shocked if we punt it a little tonight.’ We didn’t punt at all. Our offense has been hitting on all cylinders. Gerald at quarterback, he’s special. He’s what makes our engine run. Those guys did a good job. Up front and all around, the offense played great.”

But it was ultimately defense that won the game.

In addition to Garza's fumble recovery, Carlisle also stopped Joaquin twice on fourth down in the second half and held the Rams scoreless after their touchdown with 9:13 in the third.

"I think our kids felt a little disrespected in that first half," Baker said. "Our defense has been pretty lights out for us all year. They felt pretty disrespected after giving that up. They put a good game plan together and came out on a mission in that second half.”

The Rams run a physical Slot-T offense that involved a lot of running. They finished with 345 yards rushing on 54 attempts. Because this offense is becoming more rare, it made the Indians' preparation difficult.

“Nobody really runs it in East Texas," Garza said. "It’s a whole change. They run the ball 98 percent of the time. More than any other team we’ve faced. We knew we had to put pressure and more people in the box to hold them. That offense is really hard to cover if you know how to run it. And they know how to run it.”

Still, Joaquin passed more than usual, likely because it was forced to many times. Trenton Ramsey had a solid night at quarterback, going 6-of-11 for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He had thrown just three touchdowns in the 11 games prior.

Carlisle advances to the 2A Division I Region III regional semifinal, where it will face Tenaha (9-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in Hallsville.

Carlisle 47, Joaquin 33

Class 2A Division I, Region III Area Playoff
At Bulldog Stadium, Carthage

Joaquin         21    6      6      0    –    33
Carlisle            28      0    13    6    –    47

First Quarter
CAR – Gerald Turner 11 run (Aaro Gallegos kick), 9:38.
JOA – Hunter Gates 9 run (Jesus Bravo kick), 6:28.
CAR – Turner 7 run (Gallegos kick), 4:31
JOA – Gates 86 kick return (Bravo kick), 4:17.
CAR – Turner 11 run (Gallegos kick), 3:23.
JOA – Gates 70 run (Bravo kick), 2:42.
CAR – Turner 2 run (Gallegos kick), 0:15.
Second Quarter
JOA – Lorenzo Lane 15 pass from Trenton Ramsey (kick no good), 5:06.
Third Quarter
JOA—Connor Bragg 17 pass from Ramsey (two-point no good), 9:13.
CAR—Turner 75 run (two-point no good), 9:01.
CAR—Louie Garza 70 fumble return (Gallegos kick), 6:04.
Fourth Quarter
CAR—Jay Price 58 pass from Turner (kick no good), 9:32.

                                     JOA                  CAR
First Downs                     19                     15
Total Yards                      472                  448
Rushes-Yards               54-345             28-222
Passing Yards                  127                  226
Comp.-Att.-Int.             6-11-0             9-12-0
Punts-Avg.                    1-(-2.0)              0-0
Fumbles-Lost                   2-2                  2-1
Penalties-Yards                11-65               5-55

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING—Joaquin, Hunter Gates 18-143, Connor Bragg 18-133, Joseph Tarver 10-42, Trenton Ramsey 4-41, Gunner Nelson 2-(-1), Lorenzo Lane 2-(-13). Carlisle, Gerald Turner 16-99, Jamion Turner 9-32, Team 3-(-9).
PASSING—Joaquin, Ramsey 6-11-0--127. Carlisle, Turner 9-12-0--226.
RECEIVING—Joaquin, Bragg 2-66, Lane 2-41, Cesar Arcibar 2-20.  Carlisle, Jay Price 6-208, Carlos Deleon 2-13, Dawson Marshall 1-5.