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Carthage remains undefeated following 42-17 win over Henderson

By Rick McPherson
Oct. 10, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.

Dee Bowen (3) makes a cut to avoid a tackle.

Last Friday night, the Carthage Bulldogs made the 26-mile drive down U.S. 79 to face the Henderson Lions in the Dawgs first district game of the 2017 campaign. They came home with a 42-17 win.

On paper at least, it should have been a better game than it was. The Lions, who defeated Chapel Hill last week 35-21, were 5-0 for the year and ranked No. 13 in the AP poll of Texas 4A schools. The No. 1 ranked Bulldogs were coming off a bye-week with a 4-0 record.

Furthermore, both teams had plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The Lion offense was led by stand-out quarterback Trae Hall and was averaging 33.2 points a game. On defense the Lions had held their five previous opponents to an average of 15.8 points per game and had 13 sacks. For their part the Carthage offense had yet to be held to less than 40 points in any game and were averaging 446.8 yards a game in total offense. The aggressive Carthage defense had scored three times.

And there was history. These two teams faced each other twice last year. In the first contest during regular season district play, the Lions came out on top by a score of 36-28. The next time they met was in the third round of the play-offs. In that game Carthage squeaked by Henderson 33-31. The Dawgs went on to state-championship rings. The Lions went home.

It was a face-off between two perennial East Texas powerhouse programs. Two teams separated by a 30 minute drive. One of them defending a state title the other believed should have been theirs. So yeah, the fans were justified in expecting to see the high school football equivalent of a caged death-match. They were disappointed. The Lions' backers were at any rate. From the Bulldog point of view, the final score made for a very satisfying ride back to Carthage.

Carthage took control from the start. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and put together a 10 play drive. Highly recruited tailback Keaontay Ingram did most of the heavy lifting. Ingram carried the ball six times including a one-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs failed to convert the extra point.

Henderson came right back. Kourtland Jackson's 44-yard kickoff return – one of the few special teams breakdowns that Carthage has had all year – put the Lions in business at the Carthage 21-yard line. Three plays later, Trae Hall took it in from the 9 on a quarterback keeper. The extra-point gave Henderson a 7-6 lead. It was the only lead the Lions would enjoy all night.

Carthage responded with a drive that ate the rest of the first quarter. With 11:54 left on the clock Gunner Capps hit Dewaylon Ingram with a 16-yard strike for the first of four TD passes he threw in the game. The Dawgs elected to go for two on the extra-point conversion, and Keaontay Ingram's run gave them a 14-7 lead.

Two of the big stories of the night for Carthage, were outstanding special teams play, and a dominating defense. Both were demonstrated on Henderson's next possession. Thanks to an outstanding Jose Dejulian kick and great coverage, Henderson began at their own 10-yard line. Three plays later Carthage's Ahmad Brown stripped the ball from Hall. Mykel Gates grabbed the loose football and returned it 21-yards for the touchdown. Alberto Sigala's extra point made the score 21-7.

Before the half ended, Capps hit Dewaylon Ingram with yet another touchdown pass, this time from the 5-yard line. Henderson was able to get on the board one more time in the first half when Axel Romero hit a 26-yard field goal. The half ended with Carthage on top of a 28-10 game.

But nobody was ready to head for the exits. Sometimes an 18 point lead doesn't count for much in Texas high school football. Especially when Carthage and Henderson are playing.

But alas for the Henderson Lions, a second half comeback was not to be. Their fate in this game was sealed by two electrifying touchdown passes from Gunner Capps to Dee Bowens.

The first came with 9:28 showing on the clock in the third quarter. The Lions took the kickoff to open the second half, but after gaining just 3-yards and then losing five on an illegal procedure penalty they were forced to punt from their own 28-yard line. Carthage took over at their own 30. On the first snap of the series, Capps spotted a ridiculously wide-open Dee Bowens streaking down the middle of the field. He threw a rainbow of a pass so perfect Bowens didn't have to break stride to catch it. It was a 70-yard touchdown pass.

The second came early in the fourth quarter. Henderson, struggling to get back in the game, put together a promising drive. The Lions made it to the Carthage 25-yard line where Quinton Owens and Ahmad Brown sacked Hall for a 9-yard loss on third down. On fourth down, Hall, once again under heavy pressure, threw the ball away as he was going down. The ball went over to the Bulldogs.

On the second play Capps found Bowens again, this time for a 74 -yard touchdown. The Lion coverage was better, but it wasn't good enough to break up a perfectly thrown pass. When Bowens made the catch there was nothing between him and the goal line.

Henderson scored on their next possession on a 3 yard run by Trae Hall, to make the score 42-17. Carthage put in their second unit, whose mission was to make first downs and run the clock. With hard running by Tucker Smith and Chad West they did just that. Smith picked up a first down on a 6-yard carry. West added two more on runs of 24 and 15 yards.

The drive ended with a fumble and the only Carthage turnover of the night. It didn't matter. The Lions were ready for it to be over. They finished the task of running out the game clock themselves.

The defensive player of the game for Carthage was Ahmad Brown with 14 tackles, two of them sacks. Great kickoffs by Jose Dejulian made him the Special Teams player of the game. Dee Bowens shared offensive player of the game honors with Gunner Capps. Bowens had 4 catches for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. Capps had a great night throwing. He completed 12 of 15 passes, for 241 yards and 4 touchdowns. He wasn't intercepted.

Carthage made 13 first downs in the game with 350-yards of total offense. In addition to 241-yards gained passing, the Dawgs picked up 109-yards rushing on 31 carries. Keaontay Ingram led Carthage ball-carriers with 61-yards on 16 carries. The Bulldogs punted once for 38-yards. They fumbled twice, losing one. They were penalized 7 times for 65-yards.

Henderson had 235-yards of total offense and 13 first downs. In the aerial game, Trae Hall threw 17 passes. He completed 9 for 153-yards. Like Capps, he wasn't intercepted. On the ground, Henderson picked up 82-yards on 28 carries. The leading rusher for the Lions was quarterback Trae Hall who carried 15 times and gained 26-yards. The Lions punted three times averaging 40.3 yards per punt. They fumbled two times and lost one. They were penalized three times for 15 yards.

Henderson is idle next week. But things don't get any easier for the Bulldogs. Carthage takes on a third consecutive highly rated team when they meet the Kilgore Bulldogs this Friday at home in Carthage. Kilgore is 6-0 after defeating Chapel Hill 42-35 on Friday. The Kilgore Bulldogs are ranked No. 14 in the most recent AP Poll.

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