Veteran Skill-Position Playmakers Carry Carthage to 3A Division I State Title vs. Kilgore
CARTHAGE -- Considering the shattered school records and overwhelming success over the course of their careers, reaching the state championship in Arlington only seems fitting for Carthage's core of senior offensive stars.
That's exactly where Blake Bogenschutz, Terian "Tee" Goree, Tevin Pipkin, and O'Keeron Rutherford have their team Friday at noon, when Carthage (14-1) faces fellow East Texas power Kilgore (14-0) at AT&T Stadium for the Class 3A Division I crown.
Head coach Scott Surratt brought a balanced offense capable of explosive plays on the ground and through the air when he arrived in 2007. Through the last several years, which have included three state championship victories, Surratt has enjoyed his fair share of playmakers, from Si'Darius Blackshire and Dwight Smith, to Anthony Morgan and Jalen Claiborne, to Hunter Holland and Edward Pope, and many others.
But only 2010 witnessed a Carthage team with a 3,000-yard passer, 2,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers, all of which the Bulldogs are on pace to achieve once again come Friday.
The numbers are staggering.
Bogenschutz, who is committed to UTSA, has completely re-written Carthage's passing record book. He has more than 9,300 career passing yards and 117 touchdown passes, including 55 this season. If Bogenschutz throws two touchdown passes Friday, he takes sole possession of fourth in single-season state history. His 395-yard game in last week's 51-22 state semifinal rout of La Grange gave him 3,805 yards this season, which broke Morgan's school record of 3,680.
"With him being the valedictorian, he's extremely smart, but he's the smartest football player I've ever been around," Surratt said of his quarterback. "He's just like having an offensive coordinator or coach because he does so many checks. We've got more offense (installed) than we've ever had just because he can handle it, and the offensive line can handle it. He's a special young man and a special player."
Bogenschutz' big, athletic receiving duo of Terian "Tee" Goree (6-2, 170) and O'Keeron Rutherford (6-5, 181) has certainly helped.
Goree's 2013 campaign is the best for a receiver in Carthage history. He enters Friday's title bout with 86 catches for 1,689 yards and 28 touchdowns. The catches are second in school history behind Claiborne's 104 in 2010, while the yards and touchdowns are both first.
Goree needs one touchdown grab to tie for fourth in single-season state history. He'll own all Carthage receiving records except single-season and career receptions, both of which Claiborne will likely retain.
Rutherford, who will join Goree at North Texas next season, needs 35 yards for 1,000 receiving. If he gets that vs. Kilgore, Carthage will have two 1,000-yard receivers for the second time in school history. Claiborne and Cortlyn Ware each eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2010, the third of Carthage's three-peat 3A Division II championships. Rutherford and Goree have caught 43 of Bogenschutz' 55 touchdown throws.
They're great leaders. They're great route-runners. They've got great hands. They've got great size. They've got great speed.
-- Carthage coach Scott Surratt on senior receivers Tee Goree and O'Keeron Rutherford
"They're great leaders. They're great route-runners. They've got great hands. They've got great size. They've got great speed," Surratt said. "When you've got that combination and you're as competitive as they are, then you've got a chance. They feel like if Blake can throw the ball around them, they're gonna come down with it, and we like their chances to come down with it."
Then there's Pipkin, the hard-running, 5-foot-10, 165-pounder who broke arguably the most revered record in Carthage football history. Pipkin ran for 219 yards in Carthage's 28-14 Region III championship win vs. West Orange-Stark to set a new career rushing record, eclipsing the old record of 5,130 set by Kris Briggs from 1995-98.
Pipkin is only the second player in Carthage history to rush for more than 5,000 yards and the third to eclipse 4,000 yards.
"It's been a tremendous achievement for all of us," Pipkin said. "We just take one game at a time and practice hard and make sure over and over that we've got the plays down, that we execute right, and we do whatever it takes to win."
Pipkin, who has 5,347 career yards, has 1,995 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. He's five yards shy of the sixth 2,000-yard season in Carthage history. That would put him in elite company in Bulldog lore with Smith, Holland, Briggs (two 2,000-yard seasons), and Johnnie Balous, who's third in school history with more than 4,400 yards from 1992-94.
This quartet, combined with a veteran offensive line that boasts four two-year starters and Mario McCain, who will start his 59th career game Friday afternoon, helps the Bulldogs average 485 total yards per game: 260 passing, 225 rushing.
"I think the chemistry is really good. We can just look at each other and know what we're talking about," Bogenschutz said. "We don't even have to hardly do hand signals. We have several different option routes and they know exactly what I'm thinking most of the time. We've messed that up only once this season, I think. The chemistry is great. It's great to have guys that are experienced on the offensive line and at receiver. You can't be great without people being great around you."
You can't be great without people being great around you.
-- Carthage senior QB Blake Bogenschutz
In that vein, there's no doubt that Bogenschutz' ability to carve up defenses with his live arm and decision-making ability is aided by Pipkin and the ground game, which is often used as the Bulldogs' postseason closer.
In a playoff run that has seen less-than-ideal weather, Carthage's ground attack has finished off two of the Bulldogs' toughest opponents: Navasota and West Orange-Stark. On a cold, wet, windy night in Corsicana on Nov. 22, Carthage ran for 337 yards against defending 3A D-II champion Navasota and senior star defensive tackle Jordan Wells in a 44-14 victory. Two weeks later, the Bulldogs overcame a tough West Orange-Stark defense and a brutal north wind to run for almost 250 yards -- 93 of which came on a game-sealing, 7 1/2-minute touchdown drive -- in a 28-14 regional championship-clinching victory in Beaumont.
In those two games, Pipkin ran for 389 yards and three touchdowns. After averaging 117.4 yards per game in the regular season, he's averaged 164.2 per game in the postseason.
"Tevin, he's been very, very tough since we got him (on varsity) as a sophomore. The only reason he started as a sophomore was because of his toughness. We had a couple of backs in front of him starting out, but he was tougher than all of them. He'd bury it up in there," Surratt said. "He's back to his old self from his sophomore year, running extremely hard and getting his shoulders square and running over people. He's got great speed when he breaks into the secondary. His vision is great. He's very tough. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's the total package."
Obviously, the running game cannot survive without stellar offensive line play, which Surratt and each of his skill-position stars will tell you has been the engine to Carthage's hot-rod offense all year.
"It's a lot of physical play up there, but it's also a lot of mental play," Bogenschutz said. "They have to turn the protections one way or the other. They have to know who's the blitzer and who can blitz in certain situations based on what coverage they're in, so they also have to look at the secondary. They help me out a lot and take a bunch of burden off my shoulders."
"Those guys have started so many games together. Every one of them last year, and a bunch of them played as sophomores. They've got so much experience," Surratt said of his offensive line. "They can handle all of our calls. They can handle all the things we do. We've got more protections in than we've ever had. We've got more run schemes than we've ever had. It's just a tribute to how smart those guys are and how well they pick everything up. They're not only very intelligent, but they're great athletes. They're just big athletes."
In other words, it takes a lot of moving parts coming together for Carthage's complex offense to succeed: from Bogenschutz and Pipkin in the backfield, to Goree and Rutherford on the perimeter, to the veteran offensive line in the trenches.
Of course, according to Bogenschutz, sticking together is something this group has done for a long time.
"Starting in junior high, we've always stayed together. That's one thing we've always tried to do, to keep our class together. We had a few guys move up our sophomore year, but in the long run, I think that just helped us with experience," Bogenschutz said. "We've always had good team unity. That chemistry I think is really showing off in the playoffs."
That chemistry would not exist without leadership.
Coaches need leaders, but especially want them to be their best players. Fortunately for Surratt, players such as Bogenschutz, Pipkin, Goree, and Rutherford are among the team's most vocal and driven players.
There's no doubt Kilgore presents a difficult task to Carthage, but Surratt probably likes his chances with the record-setting core of offensive stars that has gotten him this far.
"This is as good a group as I've ever had as far as senior leadership," Surratt said. "They have one vision, one goal, and that's to bring the gold home, and they're gonna be very disappointed if they don't get it done."
Carthage's Skill Players in 2013
Blake Bogenschutz, Sr., 6-1, 180
- 222-for-374 passing, 3,805 yards, 55 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
- 86 carries, 346 yards, 7 touchdowns
Tevin Pipkin, Sr., 5-10, 165
- 224 carries, 1,995 yards, 20 touchdowns
- 17 receptions, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns
Terian "Tee" Goree, Sr., 6-2, 170
- 86 receptions, 1,689 yards, 28 touchdowns
O'Keeron Rutherford, Sr., 6-5, 181
- 61 receptions, 965 yards, 15 touchdowns
Carthage Records Set in 2013
Single-season passing yards
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 3,805
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 3,680 (2010)
Single-season passing touchdowns
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 55
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 41 (2009, 2010)
Career passing yards
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 9,379
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 6,844 (2008-10)
Career passing touchdowns
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 117
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 84 (2008-10)
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 587
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 435 (2008-10)
- New record: Blake Bogenschutz -- 1,034
- Old record: Anthony Morgan -- 693 (2008-10)
Career rushing yards
- New record: Tevin Pipkin -- 5,347
- Old record: Kris Briggs -- 5,130 (1995-98)
Single-season receiving yards
- New record: Terian "Tee" Goree -- 1,689
- Old record: Jalen Claiborne -- 1,534 (2010)
Single-season receiving touchdowns
- New record: Terian "Tee" Goree -- 28
- Old record: Jalen Claiborne -- 18 (2010)
Career receiving yards
- New record: Terian "Tee" Goree -- 3,023
- Old record: Jalen Claiborne -- 3,020 (2008-10)
Career receiving touchdowns
- New record: Terian "Tee" Goree -- 45
- Old record: Jalen Claiborne -- 37 (2008-10)