Carthage’s Keaontay Ingram Rallies From Three Turnovers To Play Hero
FRISCO -- The Ford Center's field was a zoo within seconds of Keaontay Ingram diving in from one yard out to give Carthage a 26-20, triple overtime win Saturday in the Class 4A Division I state semifinal round.
Ingram's punch-in was the signal Bulldogs players and fans had been waiting for since last season's semifinal loss. They will indeed play for it all Friday at arguably the world's best stadium.
Carthage's junior running back was mobbed by the charging sideline. Before those guys got there, the news crew cameramen from Dallas, Tyler and Waco were running in to get his celebration.
Triple overtime. To reach the game thousands upon thousands of players vie for every single season.
It was such a madhouse that hardly anyone realized the incredibly humbling gesture China Spring gave the Bulldogs after the end of the game. The losing team stood toward the winning team while it celebrated to its school song and only then left the field.
Carthage was jumping around in the aftermath. China Spring did everything in its power show first-class sportsmanship while fighting the urge to collapse from exhaustion and disappointment. And then, somewhere between those arrays of emotion, was Ingram.
"Oh, I don't know," Ingram said when asked how many congratulatory messages he estimated were waiting for him on his phone in the locker room. "I don't think I played too good. You know? It is what it is."
Ingram eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards for the season in the win. He scored a regulation touchdown on a 3-yard toss. He ran for all 25 of Carthage's yards on the overtime scoring drive as part of 168 yards on 26 carries against what was at least the fourth-best 4A Division I team in the state.
But he fumbled three times during the game and lost them all as part of five Bulldogs turnovers in the contest. He had only lost one ball through his first 13 games.
Ingram's first fumble was in a collision with an offensive lineman, which cost Carthage an opportunity to take a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. The second one prevented the team from leveling the score in the first quarter after going down 14-7.
The third fumble came on the Bulldogs' first play from scrimmage in the first overtime period, just after the defense held China Spring on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line for a turnover on downs.
A testament to Carthage as a team, it never allowed China Spring to build a two-possession lead and caught a season-saving break when the opposition missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won the game in second overtime.
What could have been just another tale of a state championship caliber team having a down game and bowing out turned into a state championship caliber team getting a clean slate in the actual championship game.
"I looked him in the eye and told him, ‘I don’t care how many times you fumble. You’re the reason we’re here, offensively,'” Carthage coach Scott Surratt said. “He averages about 200 yards of offense per game. He’s our guy. Like I said, I don’t care if he fumbles five times next week. He’s our guy.”
Ingram played a strong game between his second and third fumbles, perhaps saving the team that saved him -- and would again -- in the final minutes of regulation.
China Spring pinned Carthage at its own 2-yard line on a 50-yard punt with 7:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was a great situation for the Central Texas squad. The Bulldogs committing a turnover deep in their own territory or giving the ball back with ample time left on the clock was more likely than a 98-yard scoring drive.
Ingram helped split the middle.
Carthage didn't score on the heels of its sixth stop of the game, not including a missed China Spring field goal, but two explosive runs by the back for a combined 15 yards got the team out of its own danger zone.
Ingram racked up 40 more yards on the drive down to the China Spring 27-yard line and both teams burned their final timeouts trying to solve each other as it became clear the Bulldogs had turned the clock situation to their favor.
The drive did end with an interception in the end zone on fourth-and-11 from the 31-yard line, but China Spring did not even make it back to midfield before the clock expired.
Ingram gave and got. Then, he scored the biggest touchdown of the season thus far.
"I can't believe I did it," Ingram said. "I had two hands on the ball, of course. Everything worked out. I prayed about it before I went out there and the coaches told me to keep my head in the game."
Here goes nothing.
Carthage will face an Abilene Wylie squad that has no losses to 4A Division I competition.
Ingram will be a big part of the offensive game plan.
"He was on a mission," Surratt said of Ingram's late performance. "He was upset about it. Extremely. He was asking for the ball."