Carthage Seeks Fifth Title Game Appearance Since 2008
CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Carthage Bulldogs (11-2)
China Spring Cougars (13-1)
4 p.m. Saturday
Ford Center at The Star, Frisco
- Carthage: Scott Surratt
- China Spring: Mark Bell
- Carthage: def. Stafford, 27-26
- China Spring: def. Waco La Vega, 21-10
- Winner faces Abilene Wylie or Kennedale, 4A Division I championship, 4 p.m. Friday (Dec. 16), AT&T Stadium, Arlington
- RB Keaontay Ingram, Jr., 6-0, 198 (265 carries, 1,873 yards, 27 TDs; 41 catches, 448 yards, 2 TDs)
- WR/CB Mekhi Colbert, Jr., 5-10, 180 (13 catches, 171 yards, 1 TD; 5 carries, 46 yards, 1 TD; 36 tackles, 2 for loss, 4 INTs, 10 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, 1 defensive TD)
- WR Dewaylon Ingram, Jr., 6-0, 160 (52 catches, 816 yards, 8 TDs)
- LB Mykel Gates, Jr., 6-0, 222 (136 tackles, 16 for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries, 2 INTs, 2 PBUs)
- DE Tre Gatlin, Sr., 6-6, 250 (88 tackles, 17 for loss, 3 sacks, 21 QB pressures, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, 6 PBUs)
- QB Kason Davis, Sr., 6-2, 180 (184 of 319, 2,651 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs)
- OL Tanner Elliott, Sr., 6-4, 280
- WR Dee Bowens, Jr., 5-7, 140 (51 catches, 786 yards, 11 TDs)
- QB Cutter Haigood, Sr., 6-1, 190 (144 of 226, 1,764 yards, 23 TDs, 3 INTs; 184 carries, 1,442 yards, 17 TDs)
- RB Keaton Dudik, Sr., 5-9, 170 (257 carries, 2,007 yards, 23 TDs)
- WR Tyrick James, Jr., 6-3, 214 (50 catches, 553 yards, 10 TDs)
- WR Brett Cain, Sr., 6-5, 225 (37 catches, 532 yards, 7 TDs)
- LB Brayden Mathis, Jr., 6-2, 210 (124 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 INTs)
- LB Kody Fulp, Sr., 6-3, 215 (132 tackles, 15 for loss, 4 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- CB Hobbs Price, Soph. (65 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery)
- LB Shannon Beaman, Sr., 5-10, 215 (124 tackles, 5 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT)
Just the facts
- Carthage is 4-2 in state semifinals under head coach Scott Surratt. It lost to eventual champion Waco La Vega, 39-3, in this round last year.
- China Spring avenged its only loss of the season last week with a 21-10 win over district rival La Vega, snapping the Pirates' 29-game winning streak.
- Carthage is averaging 34.8 points and 379.6 yards per game -- 166.7 rushing and 212.9 passing.
- Bulldogs junior running back Keaontay Ingram averages 178.5 yards from scrimmage, and has accounted for 29 of Carthage's 59 offensive touchdowns.
- Carthage is plus-17 in turnover margin this season, and allows 309.2 yards and 23.2 points per game.
- China Spring is averaging 45.6 points and 457 yards per game -- 323.5 rushing and 133.5 passing.
- Cougars senior quarterback Cutter Haigood has accounted for 3,206 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns.
- China Spring's last appearance in the state championship game came in 2007, a 21-14 loss to Celina in the 3A Division II finals.
Key matchup: China Spring rushing attack vs. Carthage defensive front. The Cougars exercised a few demons last week by snapping a long losing skid to bitter rival Waco La Vega, earning a 21-10 win that ended the defending state champion's 29-game winning streak. The M.O. for China Spring's offense is its ground attack, which averages well over 300 rushing yards per game. The Cougars lean on 2,000-yard running back Keaton Dudik and dual-threat quarterback Cutter Haigood, as the duo has combined for almost 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground. The Cougars will put it in the air occasionally, but prefer to do most of their damage with legs of both Dudik and Haigood. China Spring has a sizable offensive line creating lanes for both players, and that advantage up front has caused problems for opposing defenses all season.
Carthage has had its ups and downs with the defending the run this season. In games against Henderson, Kilgore, and Silsbee, the Bulldogs allowed more than 300 rushing yards, but in other games, the going has been tough for opposing ball carriers. The key will be how much penetration Carthage's front four gets at the line of scrimmage, and down-lineman Tre Gatlin and Montario Wilson will play an important role in the Bulldogs' ability to slow down the China Spring rushing attack. Carthage, which is undersized on the defensive line compared to past years, must rely on its quickness at the snap to cause havoc in the China Spring backfield. The more success the Bulldogs' "D" has early could impact how the game develops in the second half. If the game is close after halftime, the Cougars' big offensive line might be able to wear down the defense, so it is vital for Carthage to get as much done in the way of slowing production before fatigue begins to set in.
Don't be surprised if: Saturday's game is low-scoring and decided by one or two possessions. Both teams will feature their running games extensively, and do not figure to give the other side very many extra possessions. In shortening the game, the opportunity for a shootout becomes less likely, and makes the defenses for both teams especially critical down the stretch. Turnovers and special teams could also weigh heavily in the outcome. Carthage is plus-32 on the season in turnover margin, but was bitten by a couple of special teams miscues last week against Stafford. The Bulldogs gave up a punt return for a touchdown, and had a punt blocked which set up another touchdown just before halftime. Carthage, however, pitched a shutout in the second half and its offense made enough big plays down the stretch to come away with a comeback victory. Against a talented team like China Spring, Carthage may not be able to overcome similar circumstances this time around.