TEXARKANA — In a game between two quality teams, it’s often just a matter of who blinks first.
Friday night at Hawk Stadium, it was the hometown Hawks that made the key mistake.
A chop block late in the third quarter did something the Carthage Bulldogs were having a hard time doing — stopping the Pleasant Grove offense.
But once the No. 2 Bulldogs got the stop, they scored 21 unanswered points to take a 35-14 win in a battle of two of Class 4A’s best in front of a Homecoming crowd of close to 7,000.
The Bulldogs remained undefeated and improve to 5-0 as they get ready for next week’s district opener at Van. The Hawks, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A Division II, fall to 5-1.
“I thought we left a lot of points out there in the first half,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “They stopped us on the first series, but after that we stopped ourselves. We got some of those things corrected and I thought we played very well in the second half.
“Coming out in the second half was a big emphasis after we didn’t come out and play the second half against Gilmer. Most good teams are second-half teams.”
Carthage ended up forcing a punt after the 15-yard penalty, but the Pleasant Grove punt had them backed up on their own 9.
They responded with a 13-play drive that lulled the Hawks to sleep. Kai Horton hooked up with Kel Williams on a 42-yard touchdown pass and the Bulldogs had their first lead of the game with 11:21 left.
The defense came up with another stop and took over at their own 38 midway through the fourth.
The Bulldogs pounded their way to a 5-yard Rayvon Ingram touchdown to increase the lead to 28-14 with 3:34 left.
The Hawks would fumble the kickoff and the Bulldogs’ Natt Marry recovered at the 38. Two Jaden Thomas runs made the score 35-14 as he went over from the 3.
“I thought the defense played great,” Surratt said. “Our MVP was Cole Whitlock with 11 tackles and he got hurt in the second quarter and didn’t return. They were very physical, but I thought we were more physical.”
The Dawgs also got big games from Kip Lewis and Mason Bobo with 11 stops each, Kylon Lister had 10 tackles, Ingram had nine and Jai Brazier and D.J. Hicks both had eight.
“Quan Brown went down and (Jakeviyon) Tuiel and Mason Bobo made some big plays,” Surratt said. “Ja’von King stepped in for Cole and he played a great football game (7 tackles) when he got in.
“We’re always preaching depth and you saw it when we had a couple of players go down.”
Carthage finished with 363 yards of total offense — 151 on the ground and 212 in the air.
They also got a touchdown from a usual combination — Horton and Craig McNew. But this time it was McNew that did the passing and Horton the catching for a 12-yard touchdown.
Horton threw a backward pass to McNew going to his right with several blockers in front of him. But he pulled up and threw back across the field to a wide-open Horton. He had to lower his shoulder to get into the end zone, but the Bulldogs had tied the game at 14-14 with 4:49 left in the third.
Kelvontay Dixon opened the scoring on a 36-yard pass from Horton with 1:27 left in the first half.
Mason Courtney led the ground game with 73 yards rushing and also caught two passes for 34 yards. Dixon caught eight for 105 and Williams caught three for 556.
“We got off to a slow start,” Surratt said. “Maybe we should have run the ball more. But we wanted to go after their smaller cornerbacks in the Red Zone. After that we mixed it up, and I think we scored on every drive.”
The Hawks, known primarily as a running team, came out throwing the ball to start the game. They weren’t very successful, but they did get their first score on a 7-yard pass to Dylan Hopkins from Ben Harmon.
Bruce Garrett, who rushed for 107 yards against the Carthage defense, got the other Pleasant Grove score on a 34-yard run.
The Hawks finished with 243 yards rushing, but Harmon was just 3-12-0 for 33 yards passing.
CARTHAGE 35, PLEASANT GROVE 14
Carthage 0 7 7 21 — 35
Pleasant Grove 0 7 7 0 — 14
PG — Dylan Hopkins 7 pass from Ben Harmon (Anthony Mejia kick), 8:14
C — Kelvontay Dixon 36 pass from Kai Horton (Brennan Phillips kick), 1:27
PG — Bruce Garrett 34 run (Mejia kick), 9:01
C — Horton 12 pass from Craig McNew (Phillips kick), 4:49
C — Kel Williams 42 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 11:21
C — Rayvon Ingram 5 run (Phillips kick), 3:34
C — Jaden Thomas 3 run (Ivan Jimenez kick), 3:22
First downs 21 16
Rushing 29-151 43-244
Passing yds 212 33
Passing 18-29-0 3-12-0
Punts/avg 2-37.5 2-29.5
Fum/lost 2-0 1-1
Pen/yds 4-30 5-45
RUSHING: (C) Mason Courtney 16-73; Jaden Thomas 4-59; Kelvontay Dixon 5-36; Rayvon Ingram 1-5; Kai Horton 2-(-16); TEAM 1-(-1); (PG) Bruce Garrett 16-107; Shayne Nelson 9-45; K.J. Hicks 9-44; Ben Harmon 4-26; Logan Johnson 4-20; Hayden Koller 1-7.
PASSING: (C) Horton 17-28-0, 200 yards, 2 TDs; Craig McNew 1-1-0, 12 yards, 1 TD; (PG) Harmon 3-12-0, 33 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING: (C) Dixon 8-105, 1 TD; Kel Williams 3-56, 1 TD; Courtney 2-34; Horton 1-12, 1 TD; McNew 1-8; Smith 2-(-3); (PG) Hopkins 2-16; Sergio 1-17.