CLASS 4A DIVISION I
State Championship

Carthage Bulldogs (12-2)

vs.

No. 9 Abilene Wylie Bulldogs (12-1)

4 p.m. Friday
AT&T Stadium, Arlington

 

Coaches

  • Carthage: Scott Surratt
  • Wylie: Hugh Sandifer

 

Road to Arlington

Carthage

 

Wylie

 

Playmakers

Carthage

  • RB Keaontay Ingram, Jr., 6-0, 198 (292 carries, 2,045 yards, 29 TDs; 43 catches, 452 yards, 2 TDs)
  • OLB Mykel Gates, Jr., 6-0, 222 (151 tackles, 18 for loss, 3 QB pressures, 3 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 2 INTs, 2 PBUs)
  • WR/CB Mekhi Colbert, Jr., 5-10, 180 (20 catches, 249 yards, 2 TDs; 7 carries, 46 yards, 1 TD; 39 tackles, 3 for loss, 6 INTs, 10 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, 1 defensive TD)
  • QB Kason Davis, Sr., 6-2, 180 (205 of 355, 2,887 yards, 29 TDs, 8 INTs)
  • DE Tre Gatlin, Sr., 6-6, 250 (99 tackles, 18 for loss, 3 sacks, 23 QB pressures, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, 6 PBUs)
  • WR Dewaylon Ingram, Jr., 6-0, 160 (57 catches, 910 yards, 8 TDs)
  • DE Montario Wilson, Jr., 5-8, 175 (101 tackles, 19 for loss, 3 sacks, 11 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, 1 PBU)
  • ILB Jase Dixon, Sr., 5-11, 190 (148 tackles, 15 for loss, 1 sack, 4 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries, 1 PBU, 2 defensive TDs)
  • CB Nic Moore, Sr., 5-11, 160 (50 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 INTs, 5 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive TD)
  • WR Dee Bowens, Jr., 5-7, 140 (57 catches, 847 yards, 11 TDs)
  • OT Tanner Elliott, Sr., 6-4, 280
  • S Mason Graham, Sr., 6-0, 185 (77 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 INTs, 6 PBUs)

 

Wylie

  • DE Dion Novil, Sr., 6-4, 240 (41 tackles, 18 for loss, 4 sacks, 37 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble, 3 recoveries, 1 INT, 8 PBUs, 3 blocked kicks)
  • LB Braydon Ward, Sr., 5-9, 165 (102 tackles, 20 for loss, 8 sacks, 15 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 2 PBUs, 1 blocked kick)
  • RB Brooks Pepper, Sr., 6-0, 190 (180 carries, 1,466 yards, 17 TDs; 19 catches, 242 yards, 1 TD)
  • QB Zach Smith, Sr., 5-10, 160 (84 of 148, 1,093 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs; 120 carries, 647 yards, 11 TDs)
  • OL Kade Parmelly, Sr., 6-3, 280
  • LB Anthony Guerrero, Jr., 6-2, 206 (54 tackles, 15 for loss, 5 sacks, 18 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 6 PBUs, 1 blocked kick)
  • OL Blake Smith, Jr., 5-11, 240
  • WR Tyler Henson, Sr., 6-0, 180 (22 catches, 337 yards, 7 TDs)
  • DE Ryan Hamar, Jr., 6-3, 230 (36 tackles, 12 for loss, 1 sack, 11 QB pressures, 3 forced fumbles, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 blocked kick)
  • ATH Cason Grant, Jr., 5-11, 170 (21 catches, 301 yards, 7 TDs; 42 carries, 278 yards, 5 TDs; 30 tackles, 1 for loss, 3 INTs, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
  • CB Gaitlin Martin, Jr., 5-8, 160 (19 tackles, 1 for loss, 5 INTs, 2 PBUs)
  • LB Trey Hooker, Sr., 5-10, 190 (73 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 QB pressures, 1 PBU)

 

Just the facts

  • Carthage is appearing in its sixth state championship game. The Bulldogs are 4-1 all-time in title games, falling in 1991 and winning it all in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013.
  • Abilene Wylie's last appearance in the championship game came in 2009, a 43-26 loss to Gilmer.
  • Carthage running back Keaontay Ingram's 2,000-yard rushing season is the seventh in school history, and the first since Tevin Pipkin in 2013.
  • Carthage coach Scott Surratt is 40-5 (.889) all-time in playoff games.
  • For the season, Carthage is averaging 34.1 points and 382.1 yards per game -- 167.5 rushing and 214.6 passing.
  • Carthage has allowed 22.6 points and 323.8 yards per game, and forced nine turnovers during the playoffs.
  • Four of five Carthage postseasons wins have come by a combined 13 points.
  • Running back Brooks Pepper and quarterback Zach Smith have accounted for 64 percent of Abilene Wylie's rushing yards and 28 of the team's 44 rushing touchdowns.
  • Wylie was outgained by 114 yards in last week's win over Kennedale, but forced four turnovers. For the season, Wylie has forced 37 turnovers, an average of almost three per game.
  • Wylie is averaging 39.3 points and 354 yards per game -- 253.8 rushing and 100.2 passing.
  • Wylie's average margin of victory during the playoffs has been 26.2 points.
  • For the season, Wylie is allowing 13.1 points and 279.9 yards per game -- 150.5 rushing and 129.4 passing.

 

Carthage LT Tanner Elliott. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Carthage offensive line vs. Wylie defensive line. It's often said that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage, and that might never be more true than it will be Friday afternoon in the 4A Division I championship game. So much of what Carthage wants to accomplish on offense will be up to how well its wall of aggression and protection holds up against a big, menacing, and physical Wylie defensive front.

Carthage's collection of skill players holds an advantage over its counterparts from Wylie, but running back Keaontay Ingram and receivers Dewaylon Ingram, Dee Bowens, and Mekhi Colbert will not be able to have their desired effect on the game if the Carthage offensive line fails to do its job. Senior left tackle Tanner Elliott is the best of the bunch up front for Carthage, but his level of play will need to be matched by fellow linemen James Ebarb, Peyton Bickham, Austin Gray, Jesse Wayne Pierce, and tight end Josh Gradberg.

Carthage C Peyton Bickham. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Wylie operates out of multiple fronts on defense, but mostly lines up with three down linemen and either three of four linebackers. The strength of the front is its three-man line, led by senior tackle Dion Novil, whose power and quickness off the ball can cause major problems along the interior of opposing offensive lines. Novil is bookended by Ryan Hamar and Austin Borcik, with occasional assistance from outside linebacker Austin Guerrero, who will rush from a stance off the edge from time to time.

While Wylie is averaging almost 40 points per game in the playoffs, it's been the defense that has carried the team to the final round of the postseason. Wylie surrenders less than 14 points and 300 yards per game, and has excelled in forcing turnovers as well, as it enters Friday's game with 37 takeaways in just 13 games.

Carthage QB Kason Davis. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Carthage is balanced offensively, but the running game plays a significant role. Keaontay Ingram carries the load for Carthage, which runs the ball roughly 55 percent of the time. He has logged 292 rushing attempts on the year, but his workload has increased dramatically in the playoffs. In Carthage's first 11 games of the season, Ingram averaged 18.5 carries, but in his team's last three games (wins over Henderson, Stafford, and China Spring), he's averaged 29.3. He'll be going up against a Wylie defense that allows 150.5 rushing yards per game, and has limited its five playoff opponents to just 4.1 yards per carry.

Carthage's Dewaylon Ingram (left) goes up for a touchdown catch during the Bulldogs' 36-28 home loss to Henderson on Sept. 30.

Don't be surprised if: Carthage targets Keaontay Ingram in the passing game. While Ingram is a gifted runner, as evidenced by his 2,045 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns, he has also been a weapon in the passing game for senior quarterback Kason Davis. When defenses have loaded the box with eight-man fronts in an effort to stop Ingram at the line of scrimmage, Carthage has employed a healthy dose of screen passes to get its star running back the ball in space. If Wylie commits to the same game plan China Spring's defense did a week ago, which was play seven- and eight-man fronts most of the night, expect Ingram to be utilized as a receiver to soften the defense. Ingram enters Friday with more than 450 receiving yards on 43 catches.

Carthage is multiple with its formations and personnel groupings, more so than most high school teams, especially at the 4A level. Preparing for this type of offense can be challenging because of the many variations it can put into play. While it's clear that only a handful of offensive players for Carthage with have the ball in their hands, it's up to the Carthage coaching staff and Davis to correctly identify which defenders are caught in mismatches. The outcome of the game might be decided by which team wins at the line of scrimmage, but the chess match between Carthage coach Scott Surratt and Wylie boss Hugh Sandifer will undoubtedly be a determining factor.

-- Wylie stats, courtesy of Abilene Reporter-News

Carthage coach Scott Surratt is 40-5 all-time in playoff games, including 4-0 in state championship games. (Bud Worley, ETSN.fm)