CARTHAGE – The defending state champion Carthage Bulldogs rolled to a 61-20 win over Jacksonville in the season opener for both teams at Bulldog Stadium on Friday night.

Three first-quarter turnovers by Jacksonville, and a huge kickoff return to open the game for Carthage staked the Bulldogs to a 20-0 start midway through the opening quarter.

After the 78-yard kick return to start the game, it took only four plays to get the home team on the board. Junior wideout Kelvontay Dixon took a pitch on the end-around for the final seven yards and pay-dirt with just 2:06 off the clock.

A Jacksonville fumble was returned for a score by Jalen Brooks before Tucker Smith scored his first of four TD’s in the game with 5:50 off the clock.

Jacksonville finally scored on a 80-yard strike from Tristen Shewmake to Chris Carpenter. A fumble recovery for an Indians score by T.J. Ratliffe, and another TD toss from Shewmake, to Braelyn Riden from 13 yards out accounted for the Jacksonville points.

Carthage quarterback Gunner Capps went 15-of-24 for 166 yards, two TD’s and one interception. Smith ran for 83 yards on 13 tries, while Dixon made four grabs for 28 yards, and added three carries for 34 yards to pace the Bulldogs.

Shewmake finished 13-of-21 for 185 yards, the two scores, and two interceptions. Carpenter made four catches for 94 yards, and made the lone Jacksonville interception.

Next week, Jacksonville entertains Palestine at Tyler’s Rose Stadium. Carthage will trek to Texarkana and face Liberty-Eylau.