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Two unbeaten teams, both 14-0, met in a semi-final game at the Star Stadium in Frisco's Ford Cent

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


Two unbeaten teams, both 14-0, met in a semi-final game at the Star Stadium in Frisco's Ford Center Friday night. The Carthage Bulldogs jumped out to an early 21-0 lead against the La Vega Pirates and then hung on for dear life. In the end, the Pirates came up short, as Carthage overcame five turnovers to pull out a 46-39 victory to move on to the 4A Division I state championship game.

For five minutes and thirty-seven seconds, the Bulldogs showed what was possible when the offense, defense and special teams all played near flawless football. Carthage's Mekhi Colbert took the opening kickoff and returned it to the Carthage 41-yard line. Eight plays later, quarterback Gunner Capps threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Dee Bowens. Alberto Sigala made the extra-point kick, and the score was 7-0.

After the kickoff, La Vega ran two plays for short yardage, before Colbert picked off a Jamal Williams' pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.

The Pirates fumbled the following kickoff, Carthage's Rayvon Ingram recovered and returned it to the La Vega 8-yard line. On the first play, Colbert lined up in the wildcat, took the snap and went in for the touchdown. Carthage led 21-0, and La Vega had only run 3 offensive plays.

A 15-yard penalty against La Vega on the extra point kick, was assessed on the kickoff. Kicking from the La Vega 45, Carthage elected to try an onside kick. The Bulldogs recovered the ball at the La Vega 35-yard line with 7:23 left in the first quarter.

Carthage fumbled, and La Vega recovered. With 3:31 left in the first quarter, Demicco Chambliss broke into the clear and took it 44 yards for a touchdown. The Julian Hernandez extra-point kick was good. The score was 21-7, and it was game on.

Each team scored once in the second quarter. With 5:55 gone in the second quarter, Carthage got another Mekhi Colbert touchdown, on a two-yard run. Carthage fumbled a second time, and for the second time, La Vega turned the gift into points. John Richards took the handoff and went 29 yards for the score.

The half ended with Carthage leading 28-14, but both teams had their chances. Carthage had a chance to go in at halftime leading 35-14. The Dawgs drove to the La Vega 11 yard-line before stalling. The Sigala field goal attempt was wide, and Carthage came up with zip.

The Carthage defense came up with another big play on the last play of the quarter, when Felipe Ponce blocked a La Vega Punt. Carthage took over at the La Vega 8-yard line, and on the second play of the fourth quarter, Keaontay Ingram went over from the 3. Sigala's kick made the score 38-20.

La Vega was far from finished. With 8:22 left in the quarter, facing Fourth-and-16 from the Carthage 30-yard line. Williams threw a touchdown pass to Jonathan Brown. On the next La Vega series, this time facing Fourth-and-five, Williams hit Joshua Bryant for a touchdown. Both two- point conversion attempts failed, and the score stood at 38-32, with 3:53 left in the game.

Carthage recovered the La Vega onside kick and an offside penalty on the Pirates gave the Bulldogs the ball at La Vega 46. Keaontay Ingram broke up the middle on a 46-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs went for 2, and the pass to Dewaylon Ingram was complete. Carthage led 46-32 with 3:33 left to play.

With 1:16 left, Williams threw his third touchdown pass of the quarter. This time it was an 18 yard strike to Jordan McKinney. The extra-point kick was good.

La Vega appeared to recover the following onside kick, but the ball didn't go 10 yards. The Bulldogs took over. Gunner Capps, took a knee three times, and the clock ran out on the La Vega Pirates. The final score in the game was 46-39.

Carthage gained a total of 311 yards in the game and picked up 21 first downs. La Vega had 445 total yards and 20 first downs.

Carthage gained 244 yards rushing. Most of that came from Keaontay Ingram, who gained 207 yards in the game.

Carthage fumbled 4 times and lost all of them. The Dawgs were penalized 6 times for 65 yards. They punted twice for an average of 27 yards per kick. The Pirates fumbled twice and lost one of them. They were penalized 8 times for 65 yards. They punted twice for an average of 36 yards.

La Vega ends its 2017 season with a record of 14-1. The defending state champions have one more game to play. Carthage, now 15-0 on the season, will face the Kennedale Wildcats at 11:00 a.m. this Friday in AT&T stadium in Arlington. Kennedale is 14-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of West Orange-Stark.

Kennedale beat Stephenville 54-28 to reach the Championship game.

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