Last year the Carthage Bulldogs and the Midlothian Heritage Jaguars played one of the toughest high school football playoff games of the season in the Region III-4A Division I semifinals at The Star in Frisco.
The Bulldogs escaped with a 50-49 win despite never holding a lead in the game until Kelvontay Dixon’s two-point conversion at the end of overtime, which gave them the win.
This year, the two teams will meet at 7:30 p.m. this Friday at the Tomato Bowl in Jacksonville, with the Region III-4A Division I title on the line.
Carthage comes in with a 13-0 record and the No. 2 ranking in state, while the Jags are 9-4 and had their share of trouble thanks to an ineligible player used earlier in the season.
“They had some early season troubles, but they’ve gotten better as the year’s gone on and they’re playing much better right now,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “I think we can play better than we did last week. And if we do, the guys have a really good shot at winning it.”
The teams have four common opponents in Chapel Hill, Crandall, Henderson and Palestine.
Carthage swept all four, while Heritage was 3-1 thanks to the forfeit.
“Offensively they do a lot of motions and formations to try and get you in 1-on-1 situations,” Surratt said. “They try to stay balanced. They like to run their quarterback. He’s a pretty good runner. But they still like to pass, and he can throw.
“There’s a lot we’re going to have to prepare for.”
Cade Sumpler is the quarterback, and he has passed for 2,459 yards and 31 touchdowns, completing 155-269 with 12 interceptions.
He’s third on the depth chart in rushing with 567 yards and seven TDs.
Latray Miller is the top running back for the Jags with 819 yards and seven scores, while Cullen Stone has 777 yards and 12 TDs.
Jay Wilkerson is the leading receiver with 66 catches for 1,226 yards and 15 TDs, followed by Hayden Wiginton with 50 for 710 and six scores, Stone with 32 for 349 and two touchdowns and Daelin Radar with 19 for 282 and five TDs.
“Defensively they have the best linebacker we’ve seen all year,” Surratt said of Heritage’s Konnor Jones-Searcy. “He’s probably averaging 20 tackles a game, and he can dominate it and take the game over. We obviously can’t let him do that. But he’s very strong and very physical and can run.”
Jones-Searcy has 138 tackles for the season and gets plenty of help from Noah Gray with 130 tackles, Wyatt Thomas with 87, D’Angelo Freeman with 71, Greg Johnson with 62
The Bulldogs are putting up some impressive numbers of their own as Kai Horton is 203-403-5 passing for 3,001 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Mason Courtney leads the ground game with 1,138 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also catching 28 passes for 368 yards and three TDs. Jaden Thomas has 466 yards and five TDs and Dixon has 22 carries for 168 and a touchdown.
Despite missing a game, Dixon is also the leading receiver with 58 catches for 955 yards and 14 TDs. Kel Williams has 45 catches for 777 yards and nine touchdowns and Craig McNew has 27 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns.
Rayvon Ingram is the Dawgs’ top tackler with 93 and also has nine tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions, despite being held out of several games with injuries.
That has allowed Jai Brazier to close the gap and now has 90 tackles, while Quinton Owens has 87 stops, 13 TFLs and three sacks. Kylon Lister has 83 stops, Mason Bobo has 76, Cole Whitlock has 72 and D.J. Hicks had 69.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the Liberty Hill-Lampasas in the state semifinals.