Carthage loves to do it big. Hosting Nacogdoches on Sept. 12 ought to draw a crowd when the two teams square off at one of the most modern stadiums in all of Texas high school football.

This is a risky game for the Dragons.

For starters, the Carthage Bulldogs are the defending Class 3A Division I state champions and return a few important pieces from that spectacular team.

Secondly, it would not be fun to lose to a smaller school. Nacogdoches will compete in the new definition of Class 5A while the Bulldogs will be heavyweights in a very strong District 9-4A Division I.

Nacogdoches is no slouch though. This could be the breakout season for a program that took a very promising step forward last year.

Both teams' aggressive scheduling move this game to No. 21 on's list of the top games of 2014.

Where do you start with this one?

Carthage's complex offense will get tested by what might be one of the strongest defenses in East Texas. There's no doubt Nacogdoches' secondary is the best in the region, if not the state and perhaps the nation.

The Dragons feature a secondary with two players who hold more than 60 college football scholarships in senior cornerback Jaylon Lane and junior safety Brandon Jones.

There's more. Junior safety Corey Lane is on the upswing with a scholarship opportunity from Louisiana Tech and senior cornerback Tay Forest is a player that should be able to find a college home by the end of the season.

Carthage doesn't have to reinvent the wheel, but its offensive losses from the state championship team are significant.

Jarod Blissett has the task of filling the shoes of Blake Bogenshutz. Combined with junior receiver Jakeldric Jackson and tight end Marquise Ginn, the trio should be a nice early season test for the Dragons defensive backfield.

Carthage is still somewhat proven defensively.

Middle linebacker James Marshall had 134 tackles last season and the defensive line is supposed to be very strong.

The quality of the two teams' defense could keep this high-stakes bragging rights game close all the way through.'s Top 25 Games of 2014