Carthage Looks to Keep Momentum Going After Heart-Stopping First-Round Win
Carthage knows what it's like to be in close games this season. Coming into last week's bi-district game against Silsbee, the Bulldogs had already played in six games decided by 16 or less points, and four by 10 or less.
So when it came down to crunch time last Friday night -- that, being Silsbee having first-and-goal on the Carthage 9 late in the fourth quarter with a three-point lead -- the 'Dawgs did their thing.
"We've tended to play a lot of close games together, and there have been some where we've put them away or even lost, but our guys are comfortable in those close games," Carthage coach Scott Surratt said.
The Bulldogs (8-2) were comfortable enough -- and perhaps extremely motivated after losing a 22-8 halftime lead -- to stop Silsbee four times inside the 10-yard line, take possession with about two minutes left and no timeouts and drive the field. The curtain closed on a 34-30 Carthage win after Kason Davis hit Dewaylon Ingram for a 24-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs the win.
"We have a lot of character, no question. These guys fight until the end," said Surratt, who has eliminated Silsbee from the playoffs four out of the last five years. "We may not be the most talented team we've ever had, but we play really hard together. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Surratt said that despite blowing a 14-point lead at halftime, his team showed a lot of resiliency in the victory.
"We've got great young men on this team who play so hard, and we're all in this together," Surratt said. "My message at halftime when we were up 22-8 was, 'Let's go have a strong third quarter and they'll remember the last times they've played us. If we let them back in it's going to be a war.' We let them back in and they had kind of an edge wanting to beat us after all these years but we were able to pull it out."
Now, the battle continues. This week Carthage faces a Houston North Forest team that will be eerily similar to a team the Bulldogs are all too familiar with -- Kilgore, which beat Carthage 41-34 on Oct. 7.
Houston North Forest is an explosive team led by a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in junior Rashand Jones, someone Suratt compared to Kilgore signal-caller Buddy Jackson. Jones has thrown for 1,850 yards and 26 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,355 yards and 16 scores through 11 games.
North Forest (8-3), which Carthage faces at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Porter, is averaging almost 41 points and more than 400 yards of offense per game.
"We've got to stop (Jones). He can really, really run and also can throw the ball well while the offense shows you a lot of looks," Surratt said. "We've got to make him throw the ball more than run. If we do that, we should be OK."
On Carthage's end, Surratt said the key is that the Bulldogs need to keep themselves out of long situations.
"Not only have we got to run the ball very successfully, but we can't have third-and-longs," Surratt said. "We had eight third-and-13s or longer the other night against Silsbee. We've got to stay in good downs."
When you run a program as successful as Carthage with four state championships since 2008, what do you say to a team going into a game like Friday's to keep the mindset in the right place?
For Surratt, that's easy.
"I tell these guys just to play hard, practice hard and let's go out and do it again. And the only way we can do it again is all together," he said. "If you play extremely hard and practice extremely hard, special things can happen. We just have to keep doing those things."