CARTHAGE — The first scrimmage of the year is always a benchmark. It’s the first chance most will get to see the new crop of players, and the first time in two weeks the players get to line up against someone other than their teammates.

In that sense, Friday night’s exhibition between Pittsburg and two-time defending state champion Carthage at Bulldog Stadium was a success.

“The main thing is we got some good experience tonight, there were a lot of guys that’ve never played on Friday night,” said Carthage head coach Scott Surratt.

The defenses took center stage during the controlled portion of the scrimmage before Carthage rolled during the live-action part, which consisted of two 12-minute quarters.

Carthage scored five touchdowns, two coming off turnovers, for a 34-12 win. The Bulldogs were up just 13-12 after the first quarter.

“We started out, I felt, really, really good,” said Pittsburg coach Brad Baca. “We were hitting on defense, flying to the football, got a lot of guys in the game. Offensively, we had a good tempo, caught the ball, ran the ball hard. And that’s what you wanna see.

“Then we kinda hit a wall mentally and physically that we struggled to push through, and that’s kinda where we’re at right now. We’ve got a lot of guys going both ways, and we’ve gotta get in shape. When you’re not in shape, then you lose focus, lose your mind, then you start making mistakes.”

That will be a big point of emphasis next week as Pittsburg prepares for its final scrimmage at home against Paris North Lamar on Thursday.

“We’re gonna condition a little bit more, and we’re gonna bang a little bit more during the week,” Baca said. “Some of these guys just got a taste of how it’s gonna be going both ways. That’ll get better as we go along.”

Pittsburg senior receiver and free safety Keontae Burns, one of East Texas’ most highly-coveted recruits, is among the several players going both ways in 2018. Quarterback Jaylon Jimmerson will also start at cornerback, and receiver Keithlen Griffin will play in the secondary as well.

“We’re just gonna play them and spell them when we can, and that’s just kinda our mentality: we put the guys out there that need to be out there, and play until they drop,” Baca said. “That’s what I did growing up, kinda old-school, iron-man football.”

Griffin caught both of Pittsburg’s touchdowns, and pulled down an interception Friday.

“The guy really burst onto the scene last year for us, and he’s done a tremendous job,” Baca said of Griffin. “He’ll never come off (the field), either.”

Carthage, which will enter the regular season with a 26-game winning streak, played well during spurts but Surratt was disappointed in his team’s attention to detail.

“We’ve got to line up right,” he said. “Our whole goal is to, if you freeze-frame it, to look good in the stance and good alignment. If we can do that, then we know our assignment. If you know your assignment but don’t line up right, then you’re in trouble.”

Carthage is high on junior receiver Kelvontay Dixon (6-0, 170), the younger brother of University of Texas running back and Carthage graduate Keaontay Ingram.

Dixon had a highlight-reel 20-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first quarter where he eluded three Pittsburg defenders in the open field and sprinted into the end zone.

Surratt, who saw Dixon suffer a season-ending leg injury in Week 2 of the 2017 season, could be heard imploring Dixon to go down once he was surrounded. But Dixon had other ideas.

“I wouldn’t ever tell a kid to get down in a real game, but it was like, ‘get down, get down, score,’” Surratt said with a smile.

“He’s gonna be a special player, there’s no doubt,” he said of Dixon. “He would’ve been a special player last year, it’s just gonna take him a little bit longer. When he learns all the ins and outs of playing receiver, he’s probably gonna be one of the best ones to ever come out of here.”

Pittsburg opens the regular season at home Aug. 30 against Jefferson, while Carthage plays host to Jacksonville on Aug. 31.

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