It's not often that state champions face off against one another the following year. But that will be the case Oct. 5 at Bulldog Stadium when two-time defending 4A Division I champ Carthage plays host to reigning 4A Division II champion Pleasant Grove.

East Texas dominated football at the 4A level in 2017. Carthage and Pleasant Grove each went 16-0 on the year.

This year's matchup is No. 3 on's list of the top 25 games of 2018.

Repeating as title winners will be challenging for both teams, as each was hit hard by graduation.

Carthage said goodbye to running back and Texas signee Keaontay Ingram, receivers Dewaylon Ingram and Dee Bowens, linebackers Mykel Gates and Ahmad Brown, and two-way standout Mekhi Colbert.

Pleasant Grove QB Ben Harmon. (© Clint Buckley,
Pleasant Grove QB Ben Harmon. (© Clint Buckley,

Pleasant Grove graduated two 1,000-yard rushers, most of its big offensive line, and its leading receiver on offense. Defensively, the Hawks parted ways with two of the area's top linebackers -- Xavier Benson (Texas Tech signee) and Caleb Porchia.

Despite the heavy turnover, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited for this game.

Carthage brings back quarterback Gunner Capps, who passed for almost 3,900 yards and 49 touchdowns a season ago. Junior receiver Kelvontay Dixon, who holds multiple Division I offers, looks to make up for lost time after missing most of 2017 with an injury.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will be led by its defensive line trio of Quinton Owens, DJ Hicks, and Felipe Ponce. Cornerback Ja'Corey Ware also returns after coming away with a team-best eight interceptions last season.

Pleasant Grove also has its quarterback returning in junior Ben Harmon, who passed for more than 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2017. Bruce Garrett, who ran for more than 1,000 yards and 10 TD's, is also back at running back.

The Hawks will also be strong up front on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomores Landon Jackson and Marcus Burris will be massive Division I recruits in the 2021 class.'s Top 25 Games of 2018

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