PREVIEW: Heavyweights Carthage + Waco La Vega Collide in Semis
CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Waco La Vega Pirates (14-0)
Carthage Bulldogs (14-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Ford Center, Frisco
- La Vega: Willie Williams
- Carthage: Scott Surratt
- Carthage: def. Henderson, 35-0
- La Vega: def. Liberty Hill, 28-18
- Winner faces either Stephenville or Kennedale, 4A Division I state championship game, 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 22, AT&T Stadium, Arlington
- RB Kemoche Hobbs, Sr., 5-9, 170 (85 carries, 1,009 yards, 19 TDs; 5 catches, 26 yards)
- QB Jamal Williams, Sr., 6-0, 180 (118 of 183, 1,719 yards, 17 TDs, 6 INTs; 85 carries, 508 yards, 5 TDs)
- OL Michael Fletcher, Sr., 6-6, 315
- RB John Richards, Jr., 5-9, 180 (115 caries, 1,374 yards, 20 TDs)
- WR Johnathan Brown, Sr., 5-10, 165 (34 catches, 649 yards, 6 TDs)
- RB Cameron Henry, Sr., 5-7, 187 (153 carries, 1,164 yards, 18 TDs)
- DB Donta Stuart, Jr., 5-10, 160 (9 INTs)
- WR Taequan Tyler, Jr., 5-10, 183 (21 catches, 287 yards, 6 TDs)
- RB Keaontay Ingram, Sr., 6-0, 190 (197 carries, 1,957 yards, 32 TDs; 22 catches, 274 yards, 2 TDs; committed to Texas)
- QB Gunner Capps, Jr., 5-11, 170 (192 of 303, 3,381 yards, 44 TDs, 7 INTs)
- WR Dewaylon Ingram, Sr., 6-1, 160 (54 catches, 1,005 yards, 14 TDs; committed to Sam Houston State)
- WR Dee Bowens, Sr., 5-7, 140 (54 catches, 1,239 yards, 21 TDs; 6 carries, 28 yards)
- LB Mykel Gates, Sr., 6-1, 221 (139 tackles, 18 for loss, 3 sacks, 6 QB pressures, 3 PBUs, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries, 2 defensive TDs)
- LB Ahmad Brown, Sr., 6-0, 225 (137 tackles, 22 for loss, 4 sacks, 3 QB pressures, 1 PBU, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery)
- WR/DB Mekhi Colbert, Sr., 5-9, 190 (43 catches, 696 yards, 5 TDs; 16 carries, 210 yards; 33 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 QB pressure, 6 INTs, 6 PBUs, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery)
- DB Jacorey Ware, Jr., 6-0, 155 (32 tackles, 8 INT, 6 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 2 defensive TDs)
Just the facts
- La Vega is averaging 43.3 points and 458 yards per game -- 332.9 rushing and 125.1 passing.
- La Vega's average margin of victory this season is 33.6 points.
- La Vega is allowing 9.6 points per game, and has 22 interceptions as a team. The Pirates allow 200.4 yards per game.
- The cumulative record of La Vega's opponents this season is 79-71 (.527).
- Carthage is averaging 46.4 points and 456.9 yards per game -- 211.4 rushing and 245.5 passing.
- Carthage's averaging margin of victory this season is 27.4 points.
- Carthage is allowing 19.1 points per game, and has forced 36 turnovers -- 18 interceptions and 18 fumbles.
- The cumulative record of Carthage's opponents this season is 77-71 (.520).
Key matchup: Carthage running game vs. Waco La Vega defensive front. The Bulldogs pride themselves on being balanced on offense, and head coach Scott Surratt would agree that Carthage must be able to run and pass equally to have success. So far, so good for the Dawgs this season. Carthage enters Friday's state semifinal showdown with fellow unbeaten La Vega averaging 245 yards passing and 211 rushing. Sure, the Bulldogs are blessed with arguably the state's top running back and University of Texas commit Keaontay Ingram, but his production would not be what it is without a strong compliment at quarterback and receiver.
Carthage quarterback Gunner Capps has thrived behind center in his first season at quarterback. He has thrown for almost 3,400 yards with 44 touchdowns on only seven interceptions on the year. Capps' receiving corps is as dangerous as it gets. Dee Bowens and Dewaylon Ingram are both 1,000-yard pass-catchers, and Mekhi Colbert has emerged as a serious threat on offense after playing a starring role on defense a season ago.
But as well as the passing game has performed this season, it's relied on the running of Keaontay Ingram to do its damage. The star running back comes into this week 43 yards shy of back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, and he has run for 32 touchdowns in 14 games. Carthage's offense has been at its best this season when Keaontay Ingram is at the top of his game.
The objective for La Vega's defense will be to take away Carthage's running game, and make the Bulldogs one-dimensional through the air. La Vega's defense is far and away the strength of the team, allowing less than 10 points per game. The Pirates have thrived on shutting down the opposition's running game and forcing teams to pass more often than they'd like. And a result, the Pirates have engineered takeaways at an alarming rate. La Vega has recorded 22 interceptions as a team, led by junior Donta Stuart, who has nine picks on the year.
Carthage will playing right into La Vega's hands on defense if it is unable to getting its ground game going.
Don't be surprised if: Carthage attempts to test La Vega's physicality up front by running right at the defense. This will likely be Carthage's biggest test to date, and it will need its best player to shine the brightest. And Keaontay Ingram has performed his best when the stage is its biggest. As a sophomore, he appeared on everyone's radar by leading the Bulldogs to an appearance in the state semifinals. However, an injury the week before in the regional finals caused him to miss the semi, a game Carthage ultimately lost to eventual state champ La Vega, 39-3. And last season, Keaontay Ingram took home Offensive MVP honors in the Bulldogs' state championship win over Abilene Wylie.
By testing La Vega's run defense early, Carthage will find out what kind of game it has in store. If successful, the Bulldogs may be able to withstand La Vega's challenge with ease. However, if Carthage has trouble establishing the ground game in the first few series, the Bulldogs will know that Plan B will be an option. And there are fewer better at in-game adjustments than the Carthage coaching staff.