Carthage Snaps Navasota’s 28-Game Winning Streak + Eliminates Defending State Champs
[Gabe Brooks, Special to ETSN.fm
Stats Courtesy Kevin McPherson]
BEAUMONT -- The Navasota Rattlers had not lost a football game in more than two years. When it came time Friday night for their streak to end, a familiar face stood on the other sideline: the Carthage Bulldogs.
Behind a 28-point second-half outburst that helped Carthage erase a 14-point third-quarter deficit, the Bulldogs delivered the knockout blow to Navasota's 28-game winning streak and hopes at repeating as the Class 4A Division I champion with a 55-48 victory in an instant classic at Lamar University's Provost Umphrey Stadium in Beaumont.
Carthage (10-3), which now has at least 10 wins in six of head coach Scott Surratt's nine seasons, advances to 4A Division I's "Elite Eight" state quarterfinal round to face Silsbee (11-2) in next week's 4A D-I Region III championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. next Friday from Tyler's TMF Rose Stadium.
Carthage senior defensive end Jarrod McLin sealed the game with his second takeaway of the second half when he jumped on Navasota's botched sprint option pitch at the Dawgs' 10-yard line with 1:02 remaining.
A Carthage team that has relied on 3,000-yard passer Jarrod Blissett all season got its second consecutive monster second-half rushing performance.
Sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram ran 18 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to convert a fourth-and-1 in the middle of the third quarter that cut Carthage's deficit to 41-34, then an 83-yarder with 1:43 left in the third to tie the game.
A critical interception inside the 5-yard line by Carthage sophomore defensive back Mekhi Colbert set up Ingram's game-tying, 83-yard touchdown. That was one of two second-half interceptions for the Carthage defense, which picked off Navasota senior quarterback Shelton Eppler twice as many times as the Rattlers' first 12 opponents combined.
Carthage's other second-half interception -- McLin's screen pick returned for a touchdown before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty negated the score -- set up senior running back Ravodney Hardy's go-ahead, six-yard touchdown run seven seconds into the fourth quarter, 48-41.
Hardy finished with 83 yards on 19 carries as he and Ingram powered a Carthage ground game that ran 51 times for 309 yards. Carthage, which erased a 15-point second-quarter deficit and 14-point third-quarter deficit, outgained Navasota 553-507 thanks to an 86-64 advantage in offensive snaps.
Third down went Carthage's way more often than not. The Bulldogs converted 11 of 18 opportunities, while Navasota went 4-for-10.
Leading 48-41, Carthage forced a Navasota turnover on downs on the ensuing possession, then converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield thanks a Blissett hard count that resulted in the Rattlers jumping offside. Carthage drove inside the 10 to set up sophomore Hunter Townsend's six-yard jump-pass touchdown to McLin for what proved to be the game-winning score with 4:51 left in the game.
Navasota answered with a quick drive capped by junior running back Keyondrick Philio's five-yard touchdown run -- his third of the game -- with 3:38 to play. Carthage suffered a special teams mishap on the ensuing kickoff that left the Dawgs at their own 1-yard line, where Navasota forced a three-and-out, leading to the dramatic finish ending in the Rattlers' red zone turnover with 62 seconds to play.
Navasota, known state wide for the best passing attack in 4A, didn't disappoint offensively.
Eppler threw for 342 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, while Baylor-bound standout receiver Tren'Davian Dickson caught four passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was a 94-yarder on the second half's first play from scrimmage that gave Navasota a 41-27 advantage.
Philio ran 27 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Senior receiver Kae'Ron Baker caught passes for 53 yards and one touchdown.
In addition to his touchdown pass, Carthage's Townsend -- an early Ole Miss baseball commit -- caught a game-high eight passes for 61 yards, while senior Jakeldric Jackson caught four passes for 79 yards and made a first down-saving tackle on a second-half turnover on downs from his defensive back spot.
Blissett, who had a first-quarter touchdown sneak, finished with 234 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, both by Navasota junior Tremayne Creeks, who returned the second one for a 48-yard first-half touchdown as the Rattlers built their biggest lead of the game, 34-19, thanks to a 20-point second-quarter run.
Blissett is the third quarterback in Carthage history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season, joining Anthony Morgan (2010) and Blake Bogenschutz (2013).
In the first half, Navasota capitalized on two Carthage interceptions and a popup kickoff mishap to scored 20 unanswered second-quarter points and go from five points down to 15 points ahead, 34-19.
Carthage, which erased a 14-7 deficit to take a 19-14 lead thanks to touchdown strikes from Blissett to junior Roderic Callway and Townsend, continued its momentum following those touchdowns with a fourth-and-goal stand to keep Navasota out of the end zone with 5:54 until halftime. But Navasota started its 20-point run with Creeks' 48-yard interception return touchdown to grab a 20-19 lead a minute later.
Navasota then jumped on a popup kickoff around the 35-yard line along the home sideline as Carthage failed to make a play on the ball. That led to Philio's 12-yard touchdown run less than a minute later as the Rattlers extended their lead to 27-19 with 3:58 left in the half.
Carthage's second-quarter funk continued with four consecutive incompletions on the ensuing possession, allowing Navasota to take the ball at the Dawgs' 30-yard line after the turnover on downs.
Navasota cashed in that short field when Eppler hit Baker for a five-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the half for a 34-19 advantage.
Carthage got a much-needed scoring drive in the final couple minutes of the half. Ingram's short touchdown run led to a well-executed two-point gadget play that saw Blissett catch the ball on a reverse pass to cut the Navasota lead to 34-27 just before halftime.