[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

CARTHAGE – Facing a fourth-and-4 with just over a minute remaining and clinging to a two-point lead, the Waskom Wildcats needed a first down to close things out.

Waskom coach Whitney Keeling put the ball in the hands of his biggest playmaker, Junebug Johnson, and he delivered. Johnson picked up the first down, stayed inbounds and the Wildcats were able to run out the clock, sealing a 24-22 victory over Corrigan-Camden and the Class 2A Division II Region III title Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

Waskom (14-0) continued its record-setting season and advanced to the state semifinals where it will face the winner of the Region IV final between Refugio (12-1) and reigning state champion East Bernard (13-0). Those teams play Saturday night in San Antonio.

Corrigan-Camden's Carlos Inguanzo (21) stares down a Waskom defender on his way to the end zone during their Class 2A Division II Region III final Friday night in Carthage. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

Waskom’s clock-consuming final drive came after Corrigan-Camden nearly tied things up with just three minutes remaining.

Trailing 24-16 and pinned deep in his own territory after a holding penalty, Corrigan-Camden's Malyk Johnson took his eighth carry of the night up the sideline, breaking away from a tackler near midfield en route to an 89-yard touchdown that brought the Bulldogs within two at 24-22.

Waskom’s Keileon Johnson made the game's biggest defensive play on the Bulldogs' two-point attempt by stopping Corrigan-Camden quarterback Haden Armstong short of the goal line after a broken play seemed to be turning into a sure conversion.

Johnson led a defense that allowed just two second-half first downs and did a tremendous job slowing down Bulldogs running back Keegan Mitchell. The junior, who entered the game with 2,355 yards and 29 touchdowns on the year, was limited to just 76 yards on 19 carries and shut out of the end zone.

Corrigan-Camden's Malyk Johnson (2) runs for yardage against Waskom during their Class 2A Division II Region III final Friday night in Carthage. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

Waskom's Thomas Ford recovered the Bulldogs' attempted onside kick, giving the Wildcats the ball at the 47. Needing to run out the clock with Corrigan-Camden still equipped with all three timeouts, Waskom turned to quarterback Trace Carter.

Carter was clutch on the final drive, as he was most of the night. The junior signal-caller converted six third downs in the second half -- all on the ground -- including two on the final drive, putting Waskom inside the Corrigan-Camden 15-yard line.

Facing third-and-11 at the 20, Carter picked up seven yards to the 13-yard line, however the Wildcats were flagged for holding. With 1:16 remaining on the clock, Bulldogs coach Seven Armstrong chose to decline the penalty, giving Keeling the chance to go for it with Johnson converting to close the game out.

“We came out and decided we were gonna go for the first down to try and seal the victory," Keeling said. "We put it in one of our playmakers hands and he made the play."

Waskom's Junebug Johnson (5) is brought down by a Corrigan-Camden defender during their Class 2A Division II Region III final Friday night in Carthage. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

Despite being limited to just 32 yards on the ground, Johnson made plays elsewhere, catching a touchdown and intercepting a pass on defense to go along with the huge fourth-down conversion.

Carter, who became the fourth Wildcat to reach 1,000 rushing yards on the season, accounted for both Wildcat scores in the second half. He completed his only pass of the night on the Wildcats' opening drive of the third quarter on a third-and-14 play, executing a play-action pass to perfection by finding a wide-open Junebug Johnson for a 34-yard score and a 17-8 lead.

“What a warrior, (Carter) was the one that lad us to victory tonight, there’s no doubt about it,” Keeling said. “He played his tail off.”

Corrigan-Camden's Carlos Inguanzo get in the end zone from 21 yards away on the game's next possession with Addison Kirkland’s two-point conversion keeping the game close at 17-16.

Waskom scored on the opening play of the fourth quarter with Carter capping an eight-play, 47-yard drive with a 25-yard scamper up the middle which turned out to be the game winner.

Carter finished the game as the Wildcats' leading rusher with 145 yards on 20 carries. Kevin Johnson added 125 yards on just eight carries, which included a 65-yard score in the first half that gave the Wildcats a 10-8 halftime advantage.

Corrigan-Camden (13-1) was led on the ground by Malyk Johnson, who finished with 114 yards on eight carries with Inguanzo adding 43 yards.

Waskom players celebrate after their 24-22 victory over Corrigan-Camden in a Class 2A Division II Region III final Friday night in Carthage. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)


Waskom 24, Corrigan-Camden 22

Class 2A Division II Region III FInal
Bulldog Stadium, Carthage

Corrigan-Camden           0    8    8    6    --   22
Waskom                        3    7    7    7    --   24
First Quarter
WAS--FG Manny Munoz 27, 4:41.
Second Quarter
CC--Addison Kirkland 13 run (Keegan Mitchell run), 6:49.
WAS--Kevin Johnson 65 run (Munoz kick), 6:33.
Third Quarter
WAS--Junebug Johnson 4 pass from Trace Carter (Munoz kick), 5:36.
CC--Carlos Inguanzo 21 run (Kirkland run), 3:24.
Fourth Quarter
WAS--Carter 25 run (Munoz kick), 11:53.
CC--Malyk Johnson 89 run (run failed), 3:13.

                                           CC             WAS
First Downs                             8                 13
Total Yards                           233               352
Rushes-Yards                  43-233          50-316
Passing Yards                          0                 34
Comp.-Att.-Int.                   0-2-1            1-2-1
Punts-Avg.                       2-49.0           1-40.0
Fumbles-Lost                         1-0               2-1
Penalties-Yards                     7-50             4-19

RUSHING--Corrigan-Camden, Malyk Johnson 8-114, Keegan Mitchell 19-76, Carlos Inguanzo 8-43, Addison Kirkland 4-30, Haden Armstrong 4-2. Waskom, Trace Carter 20-145, Kevin Johnson 8-125, Junebug Johnson 14-32, Dillon Benton 6-16.
PASSING--Corrigan-Camden, Armstrong 0-2-1--0. Waskom, Carter 1-2-1--34.
RECEIVING--Waskom, Junebug Johnson 1-34.