Unbeaten El Campo Stands in Carthage’s Way of Fifth State Championship Appearance
Class 3A Division I
Carthage Bulldogs (11-2)
El Campo Ricebirds (13-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday
W.S. "Bud" Leonard Field at Provost Umphrey Stadium, Beaumont
Carthage: Scott Surratt
El Campo: Bob Gillis
Road To State Semifinals
- Bi-district: def. Palestine, 30-27
- Regional semifinal: def. Taylor, 56-21
- Region III final: def. Silsbee, 50-21
- Bi-district: def. LaGrange, 35-21
- Regional semifinal: def. Somerset, 51-14
- Region IV final: def. Ingleside, 31-20
Next week: Winner plays Stephenville (11-1) or Kilgore (11-1) in the 3A Division I state championship, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
- FB/DT Isaiah Golden, Sr., 6-2, 315 (2 rush TDs; 71 tackles, 32 for loss, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 recovery; committed to Texas A&M)
- QB Blake Bogenschutz, Jr., 6-1, 182 (169 of 306, 2,664 yards, 37 TDs, 9 INTs; 1 rush TD)
- RB Tevin Pipkin, Jr., 5-10, 170 (218 carries, 1,583 yards, 13 TDs; 21 catches, 229 yards, 1 TD)
- RB/MLB Trent Jackson, Sr., 6-0, 215 (5 rush TDs; 111 tackles, 13 for loss, 1 sack, 3 INTs, 4 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- WR Tee Goree, Jr., 6-2, 170 (62 catches, 1,237 yards, 16 TDs)
- LT/DE Mario McCain, Jr., 6-0, 240 (54 tackles, 23 for loss, 5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries)
- RB/FS Bryian Bolton, Soph., 5-10, 175 (30 carries, 302 yards, 6 TDs; 67 tackles, 8 INTs, 5 pass breakups, 1 def. TD)
- WR Okeeron Rutherford, Jr., 6-5, 180 (38 catches, 526 yards, 8 TDs)
- DT K'Aelin Ware, Sr., 5-11, 225 (76 tackles, 16 for loss, 2 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries)
- WR Kolby Blissett, Jr., 5-9, 170 (21 catches, 382 yards, 9 TDs)
- RG Adrian Goodacre, Jr., 6-4, 315
- LG Griffin Bankhead, Jr., 6-3, 290
- C Cade Clinton, Jr., 6-2, 225
- RT Dillon Husar, Jr., 6-1, 240
- DE/OLB Gregg Graves, Sr., 6-1, 205 (51 tackles, 22 for loss, 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries)
- QB Bryce Brandl (41 of 80, 724 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs; 137 carries, 1,133 yards, 17 TDs)
- RB/DB Jack Davis (128 carries, 1,347 yards, 16 TDs; 13 catches, 209 yards; 2 INTs)
- RB Montray Johnson (166 carries, 1,167 yards, 14 TDs)
- TE/DE Cole Hunt, Sr., 6-6, 220 (13 catches, 304 yards, 3 TDs; 5 sacks; committed to Rice)
- OL/DT Trey Martin, Sr., 6-3, 268 (1 sack; committed to Rice)
- DB Jeremy Shupak (3 INTs)
- LB B.J. Flagg (2 sacks, 1 INT)
Just the facts
- Carthage averages 43.3 points per game and allows 20.6.
- El Campo averages 39.4 points per game and allows 14.3.
- Carthage averages 405.9 total yards per game (191.6 rushing, 214.3 passing).
- El Campo averages 409.9 total yards pre game (354.2 rushing, 55.7 passing).
- Carthage allows 255.6 total yards per game (107.2 rushing, 148.4 passing).
- Carthage has scored 49 or more points six times, all of which have come in the last eight games.
- El Campo has scored 51 or more points five times, but only twice in the last seven games.
- Carthage has held four teams to 14 or fewer points.
- El Campo has held six teams to 10 or fewer points.
- Carthage has committed 12 turnovers in the playoffs -- four apiece in the Bulldogs' first three postseason games.
- Carthage QB Blake Bogenschutz has 37 TD passes, which puts him four behind school single-season record-holder Anthony Morgan, who threw 41 TD passes twice (2009, 2010).
- Carthage receiver Tee Goree has 16 TD catches, which puts him second behind Jalen Claiborne's single-season school record of 18 (2010).
- Carthage and El Campo have never played.
Key matchup: Line play. It's too hard to decide which line vs. line matchup is more important, so let's just go with line play in general. El Campo is virtually a one-dimensional offense by choice; 86.4 percent of the Ricebirds' offense comes on the ground. El Campo averages 6.2 pass attempts per game and 38.2 rushing attempts. The Ricebirds also rely on a strong defensive line led by Rice-bound duo Cole Hunt, an athletic 6-foot-6 edge rusher who often plays standing up, and Trey Martin, a 268-pound nose tackle who has helped El Campo stuff most opponents' rushing attacks. To put it in East Texas terms, El Campo is an even more run-heavy Kilgore, minus the 4-3 base defense (El Campo runs mostly 3-4, Split-6, and Stack formations). The Ricebirds play keep-away offensively and pound on people with their defensive front. The question this week is, has El Campo seen an offensive line as big and physical as Carthage's? The Bulldogs have guards weighing 315 and 290 pounds, which should help neutralize Martin's effectiveness. Carthage coach Scott Surratt loves to throw the ball, but Bulldog fans know Carthage is at its best when it's balanced, which it has been the vast majority of the season. Then there's the other line matchup: El Campo's wing-heavy rushing attack vs. Carthage's fast and physical front four led by Texas A&M-bound Isaiah Golden, who has helped the Dawgs record more tackles for loss than any other East Texas team this season. Carthage dominated Silsbee up front to make the athletic Tigers one-dimensional, which led to two interceptions, one of which sophomore Bryian Bolton returned for a touchdown. Unlike run-first Taylor in the second round, El Campo will probably live and die with its running game because the Ricebirds probably don't have another choice. El Campo can go a long way in winning the game by sustaining drives and cashing in when it gets opportunities, while keeping Carthage's offense off the field. When Carthage has the ball, the Dawgs must account for Hunt in the passing game. Chances are he'll be rushing QB Blake Bogenschutz from his blind side.
- Carthage coach Scott Surratt on the Bulldogs' to-do list: "We've gotta be strong in our D-line and our linebackers have gotta play well, but we've also gotta tackle well on the edges because they attack the whole field, not just up the middle like a lot of people think because they're big and strong. We've gotta defend sideline to sideline."
- Surratt on if Carthage's tendency to run the ball more late in the season is because of that or matchups: "Both. We wanna be more physical the further we get. It's time to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage. There's some games we'll throw it a lot more because we feel like we have the advantage with our wideouts. We definitely wanna be physical in the playoffs, and we also wanna get some big plays in the passing game."
- Surratt on players' awareness of where they stand in school record chases: "We never talk about it. We'll talk about milestones, records, whatever, after the season."
Don't be surprised if: The team that runs the ball better earns a Class 3A Division I state championship berth. Obviously, that's exactly what El Campo wants to do. The Ricebirds depend almost solely on the ground game to produce yards and points. Carthage complements its passing game with a solid rushing attack, which produced more than 300 yards in an impressive performance against Silsbee a week ago. Junior tailback Tevin Pipkin finished runs well and repeatedly ran north-south instead of unnecessarily bouncing runs outside. That produced a 194-yard day for him, which puts him on the doorstep of 1,600 yards for the season and 3,300 for his career. Even if El Campo successfully runs the ball, something nobody has been able to do against Carthage this season, the Bulldogs have the capability to hit big plays, which the Ricebirds often lack because of their grind-it-out offense. That means Carthage could fall behind and come back easier than El Campo, which will likely depend on drives with double-digit plays to produce points. El Campo is a strong team, especially on the defensive line, which is a big reason for the Ricebirds' 13-0 start. But if Carthage can finally avoid committing turnovers -- something the Bulldogs have yet to accomplish in the postseason -- coach Scott Surratt and company should be in their fourth state championship game in five seasons and fifth in school history.