LINDALE – Carthage senior quarterback Gunner Capps entered the playoffs not having thrown an interception in eight games. It took all of one pass attempt Thursday night to end that streak.

But, as with most great players, it’s about what comes next.

Capps followed the miscue with five touchdown passes, leading the two-time defending state champion Bulldogs to a 49-24 win over Waxahachie Life in their Class 4A Division I bi-district playoff at Eagle Stadium.

“We started off rough,” Capps said. “I dropped the snap and tried to force it over the middle, but we can’t hang our heads on stuff like that. We went over to the sideline, regrouped, came back and put together a game.”

No. 1 Carthage (11-0), which has now won a state-best 37 consecutive games, will face Huffman Hargrave 6-5) in the area round at 7 p.m. next Friday from Lufkin’s Abe Martin Stadium.

The Bulldogs broke a 14-14 tie by scoring five touchdowns over a span of 9:25, building a 49-17 lead less than three minutes into the third quarter.

“If you get one big run in a game, sometimes that’s enough, and tonight it was,” said coach Scott Surratt, who improved his playoff record to 48-5 at Carthage. “If you execute during that big run, you get the momentum and pull away a little bit. Obviously, that’s what you want. Kinda like a basketball game.”

Carthage junior receiver Kel Williams hauled in three of Capps’ scoring tosses, finishing with five catches for 143 yards – all in the first half.

Williams’ 74-yard score gave Carthage a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, and his two second-quarter touchdowns covered 40 and four yards.

“We knew coming into it we were gonna have somebody open all night, and he was our guy tonight,” Capps said of Williams. “They weren’t covering him, they were keying in on (Kelvontay Dixon) and the tight end. We knew we were gonna have somebody open, we just had to get it to them.”

Dixon had five catches for 88 yards, with touchdowns of 27 and 37 yards.

Waxahachie Life (6-5) never got its rhythm on the ground. The Mustangs, who averaged 316 rushing yards per game in the regular season, produced just 108 on 40 attempts against Carthage.

Mustangs quarterback Gage Mayfield passed for 145 yards and two touchdowns, both going to J’Lon Sanders, who had four catches for 103 yards.

“The defense did well I thought against the run tonight,” Surratt said. “But we gave up too many passes. In their flex-bone we were looking in there for the run, then all of a sudden, they run right by us. It was just bad eyes. We played a lot of man coverage, and we just weren’t very disciplined with our eyes In the secondary.”

Capps’ first pass of the game was intercepted and returned 45 yards by Elijah Shaw, which set the Mustangs up at the Carthage 21. Three plays later, Mayfield hit Sanders for a 2-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Carthage responded with a 10-play scoring drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Mason Courtney.

Following Capps’ long TD to Williams, the Bulldogs were stopped on fourth down at their own 27 when Capps’ pass overshot his intended receiver.

Mayfield and Sanders connected again for a 31-yard touchdown, which tied the game at 14-14 with 10:12 to play in the second quarter.

“I don’t know if it was the nerves of starting the playoffs or maybe overlooking them a little bit, it was probably a mixture of both,” Surratt said. “Great teams play great all the time, and we didn’t do that tonight. So we’ve got to get better.”

No. 1 Carthage 49, Waxahachie Life 24

Class 4A Division I, Region III Bi-District Playoff
At Eagle Stadium, Lindale

Waxahachie Life          7      7      3      7    –    24
Carthage                   14    21    14      0    –    49

First Quarter
WL—J’Lon Sanders 2 pass from Gage Mayfield (Andrew Nava kick), 9:14.
CAR—Mason Courtney 1 run (Luis Piedra kick), 5:27.
CAR—Kel Williams 74 pass from Gunner Capps (Piedra kick), 2:06.
Second Quarter
WL—Sanders 31 pass from Mayfield (Nava kick), 10:12.
CAR—Williams 40 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), 5:38.
CAR—Williams 4 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), :26.
CAR—Kelvontay Dixon 27 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), :08.
Third Quarter
CAR—Baylor Colle 71 kickoff return (Piedra kick), 11:48.
WL—FG Nava 43, 8:35.
CAR—Dixon 37 pass from Capps (Piedra kick), 8:13.
Fourth Quarter
WL—Sir Michael Veasley 8 run (Nava kick), :11.

                                          WL                  CAR
First Downs                           11                     17
Total Yards                           253                   390
Rushes-Yards                  40-108               26-89
Passing Yards                       145                  301
Comp.-Att.-Int.                  7-14-0           16-27-2
Punts-Avg.                        5-40.2             1-52.0
Fumbles-Lost                         1-0                  0-0
Penalties-Yards                     7-56                6-30

RUSHING—Waxahachie Life, Sir Michael Veasley 11-62, Nehemiah Green 5-24, Ricky Randall 9-10, Chance Caro 3-4, Andre Dent 1-4, Gage Mayfield 11-4. Carthage, Mason Courtney 7-33, Tucker Smith 6-27, Jaden Thomas 6-19, Kelvontay Dixon 1-8, Kavonte Brown-Hoskins 3-7, Kai Horton 1-5, Team 1-(-2), Gunner Capps 1-(-8).
PASSING—Waxahachie Life, Mayfield 7-14-0—145. Carthage, Capps 14-22-1—290, Horton 1-2-0—6, Jackson Blissett 1-2-0—5, Anthony Wilson 0-1-1—0.
RECEIVING—Waxahachie Life, J’Lon Sanders 4-103, Veasley 2-14, Tony Evans 1-28. Carthage, Kel Williams 5-143, Dixon 5-88, Smith 2-22, Kaden Holcomb 2-18, Hunter Hill 1-25, Montrell Smith 1-5.

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