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The Carthage Bulldogs teed it up with the Bullard Panthers Friday night in Bulldog Stadium. T

By Rick McPherson
Jan. 10, 2018 at 9:27 a.m.


The Carthage Bulldogs teed it up with the Bullard Panthers Friday night in Bulldog Stadium. The Defending state champs overcame the Panthers and the damp windy weather to post a 41-7 win.

For Carthage it was the homecoming game. And a cold, blustery night it was, too. The flags on the goal posts were standing straight out. It had been drizzling just enough to make the artificial turf slick in spots. The homecoming queen and her attendants struggled to keep their fashionable hats on their perfectly coifed hair.

Early on, both teams struggled with the conditions, and neither looked particularly sharp at the outset. Carthage took the opening kickoff at their own 42-yard line. Three plays later they were at their own 40. After a 10-yard pass play left them two yards short of the first down, Bullard took over at midfield.

The Panthers didn't do any better. They gained 5-yards on three snaps. On the fourth quarterback Clete Bowman threw the ball away under pressure. The Bulldogs took over and got in gear. It only took two plays for them to get on the board. Keaontay Ingram took a handoff for a 1 yard gain. On the next play Ingram went up the middle. Nobody touched him. He went 54 yards for the score. The extra point made it 7-0.

The dominant Carthage defense forced Bullard to punt on the ensuing possession and Carthage had the ball at its own 10-yard line. The Bulldogs were going into a stiff cold wind in the first quarter. Passing was a challenge for quarterback, Gunner Capps, and his receivers.

It didn't matter all that much. Mekhi Colbert got the Dawgs out of the hole with a 20 yard run to the 30. Five carries by Keaontay Ingram got the Bulldogs to the Bullard 30-yard line. From there Ingram broke loose on a 30 yard gallop that got them in the end zone.

On its next possession, Bullard, aided by a big 42 yard pass play, drove the ball to the Carthage 34-yard line. There the drive stalled. Facing fourth and 12 from the 38, Bowman was intercepted by Mekhi Colbert, who returned the ball to the Carthage 29.

But Carthage gave it right back. On the first play after the turnover, Colbert lined up at quarterback. He took the snap and broke loose on the outside for a good gain before the ball was stripped. Bullard recovered, and the Panthers were back in business at the Carthage 36-yard line.

From there they went three and out. It didn't take Carthage long to cash in. A 29-yard completion to Dewaylon Ingram, two good gains by Keaontay Ingram, an 18-yard touchdown pass to Dewaylon, and an extra point kick – and the Dawgs were on top 21-0.

With Carthage firmly in control, Coach Surratt decided that Keaontay Ingram had done enough for the evening. With the playoffs just three weeks away, there was no reason to risk an injury to their most potent weapon in what was shaping up to be a blow out. He left the game with 11 carries for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Ingram's early exit didn't slow down the Carthage offense. On their next possession, the Bulldogs needed just one play, a 66 yard completion to Dee Bowens, to get to the endzone. It was Bowens' only catch of the night. The extra-point made the score 28-0 Carthage.

On their next possession Bullard mounted its best sustained drive of the game. Starting at their own 8-yard line, the Panthers drove to the Carthage 34. Along the way they completed 3 passes, including a big 35 yard gain. They picked up 3 first downs. They converted on a fourth and five at the Carthage 41-yard line. But from the Carthage 29, a pass was dropped, two running plays were stopped for losses, and a fourth down pass was underthrown. Carthage took over on downs. Two plays later Mekhi Colbert sprinted 61 yards. The score was 34-0.

That's where the score stood at half-time. Carthage looked like it might add to their lead when they got the ball back with 2:11 left on the clock. The Dawgs actually had a first and goal from the three with time left on the clock. But after three incomplete passes, Tucker Smith was stopped short at the goal line. Bullard took over, ran a quarterback sneak and went to the locker room.

Both bands were coming off Division One UIL performances, and both bands put on great half-time shows. The teams came back on the field. The bands headed for the concession stand. The crowd headed for the gates. The night wind wasn't getting any warmer, and there wasn't much mystery about how this game was going to end.

Thankfully the end wasn't long in coming. The officials ran the clock for most of the second half. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs scored one more touchdown on a 37-yard run by Tucker Smith. The extra point was good, and for the eighth time in eight games, the Bulldogs put more than 40 points on the board.

Bullard finally scored with a little more than a minute left in the game. The extra point kick made the final score Carthage 41, Bullard 7.

Montario Wilson, who had seven tackles in the game, with two for losses and two sacks, was the Bulldog defensive player of the game. Hunter Gauger's perfect snaps on extra-point kicks won him a share of special-teams player of the game honors. The other share went to Rayvon Ingram for his great coverage on kickoffs.

The offensive line came in for special praise. They shared offensive player of the game honors for their effort.

"The O-line has been great all year," said coach Scott Surratt. "Coach (Chris) Smith and Coach (Bubba) Watson have done a great job. As long as they can stay healthy and stay away from the injury bug, they are just going to keep getting better and better."

Thanks in no small part to the play of the offensive line, Carthage picked up 23 first downs on its way to 480 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs gained 247 yards through the air and 233 on the ground. Carthage quarterbacks completed 13 out of 22 passes with no interceptions

The Bulldogs didn't punt in the game. They fumbled once and lost it. They were penalized four times for 42 yards.

The Carthage defense held Bullard to 100 yards passing and just 48 yards on the ground. Bullard threw the ball two1 times with eight completions and one interception. Bullard picked up 10 first downs.

The Panthers punted six times, averaging 33 yards a punt. They lost one of three fumbles. They were penalized twice for nine yards.

Bullard, who came into Friday night's game with a 3-4 record overall record and a 2-1 district record falls to 2-2 in District 9-4A Division 1. The Panthers are in a three-way tie for third in district with Henderson and Palestine. Bullard is at home against Henderson this week.

With the win, Carthage clinched a spot in the playoffs and remains in sole possession of the top spot in the district. Kilgore, whose only district loss was to Carthage, remains in second place. Carthage travels to Palestine this week. The Wildcats are 2-2 and coming off a wild 62-47 win over Chapel Hill. Standout quarterback, Tyler Gray, put up 575 yards of total offense in that game and was named the East Texas Sports Networks, player of the week for his efforts.

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