Carthage has established itself as one of the state's premier powers at the Class 4A level over the last decade. Since 2007, the Bulldogs are an impressive 105-25 (.808) with four state championships to their name.

Following an uncharacteristic second-round exit in the playoffs in 2014, Carthage roared back to reach the state semifinal round for the sixth time in the last eight years.

With 12 starters coming back from last season's 4A Division I semifinalist, Carthage begins the year ranked No. 1 in the ETSN.fm Preseason Class 4A Poll.

Bulldogs head coach Scott Surratt lost 4,000-yard passer Jarod Blissett and 1,500-yard receiver Jakeldric Jackson to graduation, but does return the services of standout running back Keaontay Ingram and a talented offensive line.

Ingram emerged as a legitimate threat during Carthage's playoff a run a year ago, a journey that included wins over ubeatens teams -- defending state champion Navasota and Stafford -- in consecutive weeks.

Tanner Elliott will anchor an offensive line, whose job it will be to provide alleys for Ingram and protect new quarterback Kason Davis.

Carthage may be at its best, however, when opponents have the ball.

The Bulldogs' defense could be among East Texas' stingiest units. Returning to lead the way are 6-6 defensive end Tre Gatlin, a Division I recruit, junior linebacker Mykel Gates, and secondary standouts Mekhi Colbert and Nic Moore.

2016 Carthage Bulldogs Schedule

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ETSN.fm Preseason Class 4A Poll