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On a cold Friday night in Homer Bryce Stadium on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University in Na

By Rick McPherson
Jan. 10, 2018 at 9:36 a.m.

On a cold Friday night in Homer Bryce Stadium on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, the Carthage Bulldogs and the Henderson Lions met for the fourth time in less than two years. After a ragged first half, Carthage exploded to win by a score of 35-0.

It's about a 25-minute drive from the campus of Carthage High School to Henderson High. And these teams have been playing for decades. So what happened Friday night was a rivalry game that just happened to fall in the quarter-final round of the UIL State Championship Tournament. The winner would go on to the semi-finals to compete for a berth in the state championship. For these two teams that was almost secondary.

Emotions were high. Nerves were taut. Hands were cold. It showed in the first half of play. Henderson won the toss and deferred, so Carthage took the opening kickoff. After a good Tucker Smith, return the Bulldogs went to work from the Henderson 48. Four plays later, they failed to convert on fourth down, and the ball went over to the Lions.

Henderson took over and drove to the Carthage 15-yard line. Facing a third and six, Carthage's Ahmad Brown sacked Henderson quarterback, Trae Hall for a ten yard loss. The 42-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

Carthage took over at its own 25-yard line but wound up punting from its 29. The Tucker Smith punt went 54 yards to the Henderson 17. The Lions moved to midfield before they were also forced to kick it away, and Carthage took over at its own 7-yard line.

The Dawgs took three plays to move the ball out to the Carthage 45-yard line. From there, on the first play of the second quarter, Carthage quarterback Gunner Capps found Dee Bowens with a 55-yard touchdown pass. Alberto Sigala nailed the extra-point kick to make the score 7-0.

That was the only score of the first half. Like a couple of undercard prize-fighters, both teams slugged away for the rest of the half without much in the way of positive results. Henderson took the ensuing kick-off, started at its own 33, took ten plays to drive it to the Carthage 46, and punted.

Carthage started at its own 9-yard line and drove to the Henderson 39, before turning the ball over on downs. Henderson ran one play, fumbled and Carthage recovered. The Bulldogs fumbled a snap, threw an interception, and following the return, got in a brawl on the Henderson sideline.

There are two schools of thought on who actually started it. What is clear is that words were exchanged. As were shoves and pushes. Once the teams were separated, the officials decided that all had sinned, declared offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties, and let 'em play.

It was that kind of game. After play resumed, Henderson got the ball to the Carthage 34-yard line before turning it over on downs. Carthage ran one play, and that was it for the first half.

The Bulldogs took over in the second half. Henderson took the opening kickoff and ran 2 plays before throwing an interception to Carthage safety, Mekhi Colbert. Colbert returned the ball to the Henderson 26-yard line. From there Keaontay Ingram took it to the 1 and on the next play went over for the touchdown. Alberto Sigala hit the extra-point to give the Bulldogs a 14 point cushion.

Colbert got another key turnover of the next Henderson possession. After the kickoff the Lions started at their own 28-yard line. They drove to the Carthage 20. Henderson quarterback Trae Hall completed a pass for an 11-yard gain, but the receiver fumbled. Colbert, who somehow always seems to be in the vicinity of the ball, picked it up and returned it 32 yards to the Carthage 41.

From there Keaontay Ingram picked up 19 yards on a pass play, followed by a 39-yard carry to the 1, and finally, a 1 yard touchdown run. The extra-point made the score 21-0.

The following possession was typical of the Lions' futility. Starting at their own 22-yard line they ran 11 plays and kept the ball for more than four and a half minutes. They had some big plays. Quarterback Trae Hall hit Caleb Medford for 20 yards and Treylun Blanton for 17 more. But they also had two penalties. One that cost them a completion. Hall was sacked twice for a total of 19 lost yards and he fumbled. In the end Henderson gained a total of 23 net yards on the possession and punted from its own 45.

Carthage went on to score two more times. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Capps found Dee Bowens for a second touchdown, this time on an 85-yard scoring completion. And hard-running Tucker Smith scored with 4:22 left in the game.

The final score of the game was 35-0. The only positive for the Henderson Lions was that they were the first team this season to hold the Carthage Bulldogs to less than 40 points. On the downside, they are also the first team to be shut out by the Dawgs.

You can't hold a team like Henderson scoreless without a great defensive effort, and Carthage surely had one. Mekhi Colbert had an interception, a big fumble recovery, and 9 tackles. Jose Dejulian had 17 tackles. They shared Defensive Player of the Game honors for the Bulldogs.

And you don't move the ball on a team like Henderson without a great effort from the offensive line. Center Nate Brittenham lead the offensive charge Friday night, and was named the Offensive Player of the Game.

Four of Dejulian's 17 tackles came on kickoff returns, and he was also named Special Teams MVP.

Carthage picked up 19 first downs in the game on its way to 387 total yards of offense. Henderson had 16 first downs and 269 yards of total offense

The Bulldogs picked up 211 yards through the air as Gunner Capps completed 8 of 15 passes with two touchdown passes and one interception. Dee Bowens lead Carthage receivers with 4 catches for 159 yards.

Carthage gained 176 yards on the ground. The leading rusher was Keaontay Ingram who had 17 carries for 130 yards.

Henderson only had 39 yards rushing in the game, but had a bit more success in the air. Hall threw 33 times completing 22. He was intercepted once. Treylun Blanton had 11 catches for 116 yards. Caleb Medford added 9 more for an additional 92. The Lions had a total of 230 passing yards.

Carthage had 1 fumble in the game, and recovered it. Henderson had 4 and lost 3. Carthage was penalized 6 times for 35 yards. Henderson was penalized 8 times for 45 yards. Henderson punted 3 times, averaging 35 yards a kick. Carthage had one punt in the game that went for 54 yards.

Henderson ends its 2017 season with an 11-3 record. Two of those losses came at the hands of the Carthage Bulldogs. Carthage, now 14-0, is one of four teams left in the 4A Division I Championship tournament. Carthage will face Waco La Vega, in a semi-final matchup this Friday in the Star at Ford Center in Frisco. Game time is 7:30.

La Vega is also 14-0 and defeated Liberty Hill 28-18 to reach the semi-finals. Whoever remains undefeated after the Friday night contest will face the winner of the semi-final matchup between Stephenville (12-2) and Kennedale (13-1) in the Championship game at AT&T Stadium on Friday, December 22nd at 11:00 a.m.



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