Defending Champion Carthage Reaches Sixth Title Game in 10 Years
FRISCO -- Carthage could not have started Friday night's state semifinal any better than it did.
Staked to a three-touchdown lead in the game's first five minutes, Carthage trudged through the rest of the way, overcoming four turnovers in a 46-39 win over Waco La Vega from the Ford Center at The Star.
Top-ranked and defending state champion Carthage (15-0) advanced to its six title game in 10 seasons. The Bulldogs will go for championship No. 6 in the Class 4A Division I final against Kennedale (14-1) at 11 a.m. Friday from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“Last year we came into this same building and turned it over five times," said Carthage coach Scott Surratt in reference to his team's triple overtime semifinal victory over China Spring. "We were minus-four in turnover ratio, and we got outta here with a win. We feel fortunate.”
La Vega (14-1) scored 20 points off Carthage turnovers -- all fumbles.
“We gave them chances," Surratt said. "But they’ve got a great football team, and they caused a lot of that. The inexcusable turnovers … if we have that, we’ll get blown out of the stadium next week against Kennedale.”
Carthage was outgained for the game, 448-304, and the Bulldogs had only 109 second-half yards.
However, 46 of those yards came on the biggest play of the night -- senior running back Keaontay Ingram's touchdown run that pushed Carthage's lead to 46-32 with 3:33 remaining after La Vega had wrestled away the momentum with touchdowns on consecutive drives.
“It was a sigh of relief, but there was still work to be done," Ingram said. "They’re a really, really good team so we still had to play.”
La Vega scored again on Jamal Williams' 18-yard pass to Jordan McKinney -- Williams' third touchdown toss of the the fourth quarter -- with 1:16 to play.
Carthage recovered the ensuing onside kick, and finished off the win.
Ingram, who is committed to the University of Texas, ran 26 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season, and became the third back in school history to get to 5,000 for a career.
“It means a lot, but you know, as a team we got that," Ingram said. "I don’t feel like I accomplished that, I feel like the team did.”
Surratt came away impressed with his team's ability to run the ball on La Vega.
“He’s a special player," Surratt said of Ingram. "But his O-line blocked very well. This front was the best front we’ve seen all year, the linebackers were the best we’ve seen all year, and the secondary was the best we’ve seen all year.”
Williams threw for 145 yards with the three touchdowns and one interception for La Vega. John Richards rushed for 169 yards and two scores on 15 carries in the loss.
And if not for a dreadful start by the Pirates, the outcome may have been different.
Colbert returned the game's opening kickoff 40 yards to the La Vega 41, and Bulldogs quarterback Gunner Capps hit Dee Bowens for an 11-yard touchdown on the seventh play of the drive for a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing series, Colbert stepped in front of Williams' third-down pass and returned it 27 yards to the end zone, and Carthage led 14-0.
“They run a lot of quick routes, so I just jumped it at the right time," said Colbert of his seventh interception of the season.
La Vega's Malachi Wright then fumbled the kickoff, and Carthage's Rayvon Ingram returned the loose ball 11 yards to the Pirates' 8.
Colbert took the direct snap on first down and scored for a 21-0 Bulldogs lead with 7:23 still remaining in the first quarter.
“On both sides of the ball we came out real quick and attacked them," Keaontay Ingram said. "That’s what we wanted to do, and that’s what we needed to do. We knew they were gonna make plays, and we knew that had playmakers.”
Carthage fumbled on its next series, and La Vega turned that into points on Demicco Chambliss' 44-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs went back in front by three scores, 28-7, when Colbert ran it in from two yards midway through the second quarter.
But the turnover bug bit Carthage again on its next possession, and La Vega made it 28-14 on Richards' 29-yard touchdown run with 2:46 until halftime.
Alberto Sigala increased the Bulldogs lead to 31-14 with a 27-yard field goal to end Carthage's first drive of the second half, but another lost fumble later in the quarter led to another La Vega touchdown -- an 11-yard run from Richards to cut the deficit to 31-20.
Carthage's fourth and final turnover of the night occurred later in the third, but Felipe Ponce blocked a La Vega punt on the final snap of the quarter to set the Bulldogs up inside the Pirates' 10-yard line.
Ingram's 3-yard scoring run two plays later made it 38-20.
Carthage 46, Waco La Vega 39
Class 4A Division I
At Ford Center, Frisco
Carthage 21 7 3 15 -- 46
La Vega 7 7 6 19 -- 39
CAR--Dee Bowens 11 pass from Gunner Capps (Alberto Sigala kick), 8:53.
CAR--Mekhi Colbert 27 interception return (Sigala kick), 7:38.
CAR--Colbert 8 run (Sigala kick), 7:23.
LV--Demicco Chambliss 44 run (Julian Hernandez kick), 3:31.
CAR--Colbert 2 run (Sigala kick), 5:55.
LV--John Roberts 29 run (Hernandez kick), 2:46.
CAR--FG Sigala kick, 8:16.
LV--Richards 11 run ((kick failed), 3:34.
CAR--Keaontay Ingram 3 run (Sigala kick), 11:12.
LV--Johnathan Brown 24 pass from Jamal Williams (pass failed), 8:22.
LV--Joshua Bryant 17 pass from Williams (kick failed), 3:44.
CAR--Ingram 46 run (Dewaylon Ingram pass from Capps), 3:33.
LV--Jordan McKinney 18 pass from Williams (Hernandez kick), 1:16.
First Downs 18 18
Total Yards 304 448
Rushes-Yards 37-237 45-303
Passing Yards 67 145
Comp.-Att.-Int. 9-18-1 10-24-1
Punts-Avg. 2-27.0 2-36.0
Fumbles-Lost 4-4 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-65 8-65
RUSHING--Carthage, Keaontay Ingram 26-207, Mekhi Colbert 4-28, Ahmad Brown 2-19, Gunner Capps 5-(-17). La Vega, John Richards 15-169, Demicco Chambliss 3-46, Cameron Henry 11-44, Jamal Williams 8-30, Joshua Bryant 2-29, Kemoche Hobbs 5-8, Team 1-(-23).
PASSING--Carthage, Capps 9-17-1--67, Colbert 0-1-0--0. La Vega, Williams 10-24-1--145.
RECEIVING--Carthage, Dee Bowens 3-31, Dewaylon Ingram 2-16, Colbert 2-(-1), Callahan Baldree 1-11, Keaontay Ingram 1-10. La Vega, Bryant 3-49, Johnathan Brown 2-38, Jordan McKinney 2-22, Kemoche Hobbs 1-16, Caleb Wright 1-16, Chambliss 1-4.