Carthage Senior Lineman Mario McCain Concludes Iron Man Career in State Championship vs. Kilgore
CARTHAGE -- Fifty-eight games. That's a lot of high school football.
That's how many games Mario McCain has started for the Carthage Bulldogs. Not combined on freshman, JV, and varsity squads.
Fifty-eight games as a varsity starter.
The 6-foot, 225-pound senior starts Game No. 59 at noon Friday in Arlington, where the Bulldogs (14-1) face Kilgore (14-0) at AT&T Stadium for the Class 3A Division I state championship.
McCain is the only starter left from the last Carthage state championship team, which beat Coldspring-Oakhurst 47-22 in the 2010 Class 3A Division II title game to finish the Dawgs' three-peat. While his position has changed from right guard in 2010 to left tackle in 2013 -- protecting standout senior quarterback Blake Bogenschutz' blind side -- McCain remains a key cog for Carthage on both sides of the ball.
"I think more than anything it says a lot about how he works. To stay healthy for 59 straight games is hard to do," said Carthage offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Chris Smith. "To play four years every snap of every game and never miss a game, that says something about how he trains his body and how he works in practice to condition himself to do that.
"It's an amazing thing. There's no telling how many snaps he's played. A two-way starter for three years playing as many games as we've played, I'd like to know how many snaps he's gotten."
McCain helped Carthage to a 14-2 state-title season as a freshman, then played the rare role of veteran sophomore in 2011, when a few classmates -- most notably Bogenschutz and Carthage career rushing leader Tevin Pipkin -- made the jump to varsity football. The result was a solid 9-4 season that ended in a third-round 35-34 overtime loss to Argyle, which lost in the state championship game.
By 2012, McCain was a noticeable problem for opponents on both sides of the ball.
Teaming with one of the state's best players, Isaiah Golden, along Carthage's defensive line, McCain had a big year from his end spot, producing 60 tackles, 19 for loss, six sacks, and a team-leading six forced fumbles. That performance accompanied another strong year on the offensive line, which helped Bogenschutz throw for 2,870 yards and Pipkin run for 1,645 yards as the Dawgs finished 11-3 with a 3A Division I state semifinal appearance.
Carthage switched 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior Adrian Goodacre to right guard with McCain to left tackle late in the regular season and the Bulldogs have enjoyed offensive production that rivals any that they have seen in Carthage head coach Scott Surratt's seven-year tenure. Carthage enters Friday's state championship with 687 points, only 16 shy of the program's all-time high of 703, which came in 2008, the first of the Bulldogs' three-peat championship seasons.
Meanwhile, McCain has probably been Carthage's best player on defense.
Following in the footsteps of playmaking Carthage defensive tackles such as DeShun Williams, Lovis Hall, and Golden, who started at Texas A&M as a true freshman this fall, McCain has been a force after moving from the edge to inside as a senior. His 119 tackles trail only junior middle linebacker James Marshall for the team lead, while his 22 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 27 quarterback pressures are tops on the team.
Carthage needs McCain and company to hold their own against a physical, larger Kilgore offensive front, which has helped KHS average almost 350 rushing yards per game this season. Simultaneously, McCain has huge responsibilities on offense, where he'll be expected to help Smith's men in the trenches repel what could be the best defensive line CHS has faced this year. Kilgore seniors LaDarrin Anthony, D.Q. Scott, and Caleb Wood have combined for 33 sacks as their team has racked up an eye-opening 53 while holding opponents to only 83.5 rushing yards per game.
Smith believes if anyone along Carthage's front is ready for the challenges on both sides of the ball, it's McCain.
"We mention all the time in our (offensive line) meeting with him being the only guy that's ever really been out there on the field and played for (a state championship)," Smith said. "He doesn't talk about that a lot, but we use him as an example as being a guy that's done it. We kinda use him as motivation for the other guys."