KILGORE — They might not be in peak playoff form, but the No. 2 Carthage Bulldogs showed Friday night they are very close.
The offense scored the first six times it had the ball — led by the four TD performance of quarterback Kai Horton’s right arm — while the starting defense bent a few times but didn’t break in a 49-11 win over the Kilgore Bulldogs on a chilly night in R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
Carthage finishes both the regular season and its District 10-4A schedule undefeated at 10-0 and 5-0. Kilgore drops to 5-5 and 2-3 and will be one of the four teams representing the district in the Region III-4A Division I playoffs.
Carthage set up a bi-district match with Athens at the Tomato Bowl in Jacksonville next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“I thought we played well in all three phases of the game,” said Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt. “We made a few mistakes, but it’s all things we can clean up. We can keep getting better as we go.
“The defense played great again. We gave up seven points — and that was late with the subs in. I can’t be more proud of the way we’re playing now.”
Getting Horton going seemed to be the order of the day for the Bulldogs as he came out throwing and never looked back.
He completed six of his first seven passes, with the only missing a drop in the end zone. That only kept them out of the end zone for two plays, however, as Horton connected with Mason Courtney on a screen pass that covered 17 yards for the score.
The drop was forgiven on the next series as Kel Williams caught a 49-yard bomb in stride to make it 14-0.
The second quarter saw Horton hit Craig McNew for a 20-yard touchdown and Jaden Thomas burst up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown to make it 28-0.
The Dawgs would get the ball back late in the half after they got the ball back on a De’Aundrey Bowman interception.
Horton got things started with a 48-yard pass to Kelvontay Dixon, where the Carthage standout out-jumped the defensive back for the ball. McNew would be on the receiving end of the TD pass from Horton’s right arm from 17 yards out.
“He threw the ball well,” Surratt said of Horton. “Two of his five incompletions were drops. He managed the game well and we made some big plays.”
Tray Epps picked up 28 yards late in the first half to get Kilgore inside the Red Zone, but the Carthage defense kept them out of the end zone.
Courtney would score on a 3-yard run in the starters’ only series in the second half as the lead grew to 42-0.
Then things got a little exciting.
Forced to punt from deep in their own territory, Brennan Phillips was unable to handle a bouncing snap and was tackled for a safety.
One play after the free kick, Kennieth Lacy got outside and raced 37 yards for a touchdown to give them home crowd something to cheer about.
But the Carthage subs didn’t take the score laying down as Anthony Wilson connected with Cartrell Fulton behind the defense. Fulton was able to stay in bounds when a defensive back tried to shove him out of bounds, and he went 64 yards for the score.
Kilgore would get two more points complements of the Carthage special teams when the ball was snapped over Phillips’ head this time, resulting in a second safety.
Horton finished 16-21-0 for 250 yards and the four scores — his second four TD game of the season. Courtney finished with 70 yards on 13 carries and Thomas had five for 63. Williams caught five passes for 105 yards, Dixon caught four for 70, McNew caught three for 38, Montrell Smith caught three for 35, Fulton caught one for 64 and Courtney caught one for 17.
The Bulldogs ended up with 135 yards rushing, with the yardage cut down by the 49 yards on losses on the safeties. The two QBs combined to go 17-25-0 for 315 yards and five TDs.
Carthage 49, Kilgore 11
Carthage 14 21 7 7 — 49
Kilgore 0 0 9 2 — 11
CAR — Mason Courtney 17 pass from Kai Horton (Brennan Phillips kick), 8:10
CAR — Kel Williams 49 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 2:06
CAR — Craig McNew 20 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 8:3
CAR — Jaden Thomas 21 run (Phillips kick), 5:14
CAR — McNew 17 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 1:18
CAR — Courtney 3 run (Irvin Jimenez kick), 4:01
KIL — SAFETY (Punter tackled in EZ), 1:09
KIL — Kennieth Lacy 37 run (Chris Baldoza kick), 00:09
CAR — Cartrell Fulton 64 pass from Anthony Wilson (Jimenez kick), 11:49
KIL — SAFETY (Ball snapped over punter’s head), 1:40
First downs 23 7
Rushing yds 32-135 26-169
Passing yds 314 47
Passing 17-25-0 7-17-1
Punts/yds 1-32 4-38.2
Fum/lost 0-0 1-0
Pen/yds 3-30 2-20
RUSHING: (C) Mason Courtney 13-70; Jaden Thomas 5-63; Kelvontay Dixon 2-3; Kai Horton 2-7; Anthony Wilson 1-19; Braeden Wade 1-7; Cartrell Fulton 1-5; Vontavious Gipson 5-(-9); TEAM 2-(-49); (K) Kennieth Lacy 12-89; Tray Epps 7-38; Dalton McElyea 5-37; Kentrell Roy 2-5.
PASSING: (C) Horton 16-21-0, 250, 4 TDs; Wilson 1-4-0, 64, 1 TD; (K) McElyea 7-17, 46 yds.
RECEIVING: (C) Williams 5-105; Dixon 4-70; McNew 3-38; Montrell Smith 3-35; Fulton 1-64; Courtney 1-17; (K) Donovan Adkins 1-24; Devondrick Crowe 1-2; Brian Brown 2-8; Cade Pippen 2-8; Sam Whitt 1-5.