Wyatt Wolverton, Hallsville Take It to Defending-Champion No. 4 Carthage, 52-20
HALLSVILLE -- It's been a while since Class 4A No. 4 Carthage has entered a season in rebuilding mode, but Hallsville made it apparent against the defending state-champion Bulldogs on Friday night.
Wyatt Wolverton accounted for five touchdowns and Hallsville turned two Carthage turnovers into scores in a convincing 52-20 win at Bobcat Stadium.
The Class 5A Bobcats (1-0) raced out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back, dominating the line of scrimmage and frustrating the new-look Bulldogs on both sides of the ball.
"It's a great confidence booster. I think our depth got them tired early and they never recovered from that," Hallsville coach David Plunk said. "I think our offensive line really took control of the game and set the tone, controlling the line of scrimmage."
Carthage (0-1), which lost 18 starters following its Class 3A Division I state championship run last year, is in a unique situation with an uphill climb focused on gaining experience.
"First of you've got to give props to Hallsville. They've got a good team and they wore us out. We've got a lot of new faces and nobody knew how they would react to Friday night football," Carthage coach Scott Surratt said. "We're going to have some ups and downs, and it may be a roller coaster until we get it right, and we're gonna have to get it right in a hurry. We're going to get better. If we stay healthy we're going to get lots better."
Wolverton ran for three touchdowns and threw two more. He accounted for 237 yards of offense, rushing for 79 yards on 17 carries and passing for 158 on an impressive 14 of 16 completions. He connected with Jamil Young nine times for 121 yards and both touchdowns.
Jarod Blissett, making his first start following the footsteps of Carthage's most prolific passer in Blake Bogenschutz, showed plenty of arm strength and poise in the backfield but had troubles with connecting with his receivers and also seeing seven passes dropped. He completed 16 of 32 completions for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
"(Blissett) has great talent throwing the football. He missed some easy throws he normally hits, but he made some great throws also and a time or two we dropped it," Surratt said. "He's a great leader and I thought our offensive line did a great job protecting him. We'll get better in the throwing game."
Tight end Marquise Guinn, the only offensive starter returning in 2014, caught one pass in Carthage's loss.
Carthage's running game might be the facet with the biggest challenge, totaling just 88 yards on 21 attempts, and 45 of those yards came on the Bulldogs' final drive with the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs were primed to score first, taking seven plays on their first drive to get to the Hallsville 3-yard line. Freshman Mykel Gates lost the ball heading into the end zone on second-and-goal, and defensive end Jonathan Mitchell picked up the pigskin and raced up the sideline 100 yards for a touchdown.
"My biggest fear at the time was our defense wearing down early because they had to go back out there immediately. The key was our depth," Plunk said. "That play set the tone and we could let our depth take over. Our kids played a great game all-around."
Another lost fumble late in the second quarter gave Hallsville possession at the Carthage 39, and Khalil Sneed -- who led all rushers with 109 yards on 14 carries -- punched it in from 4 yards out to give Hallsville a 24-7 lead with 2:32 left in the first half.
After a Carthage punt it looked like Hallsville would run out the clock since it would regain possession in the second half. But a nifty pump-fake from Wolverton fooled the Carthage secondary and he found Young up the right sideline for a 61-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the first half.
Hallsville's only turnover came on its first drive of the second half, and Carthage needed just two plays from the Bobcats 14 to get Gates in the end zone on a 2-yard run to make the score 31-13 early in the second half.
But Wolverton score on short runs twice more in the second half and found Young in the end zone for a second time to put the game out of reach. Hallsville led 52-13 until Blissett connected with Tanner Elliott for a 16-yard touchdown with 3:57 left in the game.
Friday night saw both participants in last year's 3A Division I title game start the 2014 season with a loss. Nacogdoches kicked a game-winning field goal to upend Kilgore, 27-25. The Dragons visit Hallsville next Friday night.
"We're going to enjoy tonight and worry about (Nacogdoches) in the morning," Plunk said. "This helps us going into that game. It's not as urgent to get a win in that one. If you do you really put yourself up as one of the elite teams in East Texas, and if you don't you see what you've got to work on and you've come out playing two of the best teams in East Texas right off the bat."
Hallsville 52, No. 4 Carthage 20
At Bobcat Stadium, Hallsville
Carthage 0 7 6 7 -- 20
Hallsville 10 21 14 7 -- 52
HAL--Jonathan Mitchell 100 fumble return (Mason Beatty kick), 8:53
HAL--Beatty 41 FG, :48
HAL--Wyatt Wolverton 8 run (Beatty kick), 10:01
CAR--Jakeldric Jackson 34 pass from Jarod Blissett (Rafael Hernandez kick), 6:10
HAL--Khalil Sneed 4 run (Beatty kick), 2:32
HAL--Jamil Young 61 pass from Wolverton (Beatty kick), :17
CAR--Mykel Gates 2 run (pass failed), 10:38
HAL--Young 13 pass from Wolverton (Beatty kick), 6:51
HAL--Wolverton 1 run (Beatty kick), 1:43
HAL--Wolverton 3 run (Beatty kick), 6:47
CAR--Tanner Elliott 16 pass from Blissett (Hernandez kick), 3:57
First Downs 19 28
Total Yards 339 406
Rushes-Yards 21-88 54-248
Passing Yards 251 158
Comp.-Att.-Int. 16-32-0 14-16-0
Punts-Avg. 3-42.7 1-33.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-52 6-52
RUSHING--Carthage, De'Airreus Hearn 4-42, Trey Jackson 5-24, Juston Clough 4-17, Mykel Gates 3-10, Ravodney Hardy 3-10, Jarod Blissett 2-(-15). Hallsville, Khalil Sneed 14-109, Nick Branch 10-81, Wyatt Wolverton 17-79, Roger McCuller 3-22, Auryan Parks 3-19, Dionte Johnson 1-11, Jacob Taylor 1-8, Caden Thompson 1-5, Roger McCuller 2-0, Team 2-(-5).
PASSING--Carthage, Blissett 16-32-0--251. Hallsville, Wolverton 14-16-0--158.
RECEIVING--Carthage, Jakeldric Jackson 4-63, Kirston Ingram 3-78, Clough 3-31, Tanner Elliott 2-30, Trey Jackson 2-27, Micah Templeton 1-13, Marquise Guinn 1-9. Hallsville, Jamil Young 9-121, Coleton Lasseter 2-22, Branch 1-7, Andrew Southard 1-6, Johnson 1-2.