Scott Surratt’s Bold Prediction Comes True In Championship Game
ARLINGTON -- Three takeaways would have been a good number for a team playing on state championship weekend. Carthage got six.
Senior defensive tackle Austin Russell, junior cornerback Mekhi Colbert and senior safety Mason Graham each came up with two steals in a 31-17 win Friday against Abilene Wylie for the Class 4A Division I state title at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
The trio got those turnovers just six days after being part of a unit that held China Spring to 20 points through 48 minutes of regulation and zero points in three overtime periods. Wylie had a full seven days to recover from its semifinal game.
"We were healthy and ready to go," head coach Scott Surratt said after stating he thought the defense was due for an even better game than its state semifinal performance. "Somebody asked me about our motivation after a third-overtime game. 'I promise you we'll be motivated and ready to go. It's the state championship.' It worked out for us."
Carthage (13-2) blanked Wylie (12-2) in the second half and held the West Texas squad to three points after going down 14-0 at the 5:55 mark of the first quarter. It also allowed just 46 yards and two first downs through the final 24 minutes of its championship season.
One of Wylie's two first down runs in the second half resulted in a fumble lost. In fact, each of Wylie's second-half possessions ended on turnovers -- four interceptions and the fumble just after passing the marker.
Surratt's prognostication was on the money.
It was the defense that helped allow Carthage to turn its 14-0 deficit into a tie game in the matter of 28 seconds.
Between a 25-yard touchdown pass from Kason Davis to wideout Dewaylon Ingram and Keaontay Ingram's 2-yard dive the first play of the second quarter, Russell recovered a fumble off a strip and technical sack by defensive end Tre Gatlin at Wylie's 14-yard line.
Russell also stopped Wylie's most promising possession of the second half. At least when it was still a game to lose after late field goals from both teams in the first half for a 17-17 halftime score.
Rallying from an interception thrown to Colbert on Wylie's first possession of the second half, quarterback Zach Smith converted a third-and-3 from Carthage's 41-yard line despite being caught for a potential loss on the play. He managed to ride over a defender without having a knee touch the turf, and the Wylie crowd was ready to celebrate a momentum-shifting play for the first time since the midway point of the first quarter.
Russell caught Smith and stripped the ball. That pretty much sealed the championship game's Defensive MVP award debate in the press box and silenced the opposing half of 24,139 spectators in the seats.
Russell's second recovered fumble did not result in points, but Carthage got a handle on the field position battle. Colbert then got his second interception to end Wylie's next possession and teed up an eight-play, 43-yard and go-ahead scoring drive.
Graham held the 24-17 margin Wylie's next time out on offense. He pulled in a pass tipped by cornerback Nic Moore with seven minutes left to play to spearhead a six-play, 63-yard touchdown drive over 3:43 of game time.
Graham got his second interception two defensive plays later to clinch the championship. Carthage finished its season on offense.
"They save us all the time whenever we are down," senior offensive tackle Tanner Elliott said. "They did a crazy job all year of helping us out when we couldn't score. They did it. They won this game."
The state game was billed as a meeting between two stout defenses. Wylie reached the title game by forcing four takeaways of its own last week against Kennedale in a one-possession win.
With those numbers, Wylie was a spooky opponent for a Carthage team that suffered five turnovers in its own penultimate game.
Keaontay Ingram answered back from a three-fumble game last week with zero in the title match while carrying for 180 yards and two scores on 28 touches. Davis threw one interception, an adequate number.
So, Russell and Keaontay Ingram went to the Cowboys' star at the 50-yard line for MVP plaques. Carthage hoisted another championship trophy.
There's even more tradition to defend next season.
"It's a dynasty and a legacy we have in Carthage," Russell said. "Right from the beginning of the season, we're getting told to get ready to go to state. It takes work. That's what we've done and that's what I leave behind."