The second-ranked Bulldogs followed a tried-and-true formula to honor their seniors Friday night at Bulldog Stadium
They built an early lead to take control in the first half and then tried a little bit of everything in the second half on the way to the win.
The Henderson Lions were the victims for Carthage this week and they also did something not many teams have done — outscore the Bulldogs in the second half.
It wasn’t close to enough, however, as the Bulldogs stayed perfect with the 34-14 win and claimed the district title.
Carthage is now 9-0 on the season and 4-0 in District 20-4A action heading into next week’s regular season finale at Kilgore. Henderson falls to 6-3 and 2-2 in district.
The Bulldogs have already set up their bi-district game. They will play Athens on Friday, Sept. 13 at the Tomato Bowl in Jacksonville.
“It was a big win,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “It wasn’t exactly pretty, but that was a good challenge. I thought we got off to a hot start. The energy was real good in the first half. I thought we had a bit of a let down after they scored in the first half. That was the first time they had scored on our defense in the last 13 quarters.
“But we’re excited about getting a win and wrapping up the district title without playing our best. I think we’ll see them again in the playoffs and we’ll be ready.”
Actually, there were a lot of things different in this game.
The Bulldogs kicked two field goals for the first time all season, the defense also scored and quarterback Kai Horton only threw one touchdown pass — and it wasn’t to Kelvontay Dixon.
Horton went deep to Kel Williams on the opening drive for 49 yards, only to have the drive go backward from there. A 25-yard Brennan Phillips field goal put the Bulldogs up 3-0.
Mason Bobo was the man on the spot on the following possession as Henderson QB Caleb Medford lost the ball. After a mad scramble for it, Bobo scooped and scored from the 18 to make it 10-0.
Dixon made a few catches, but his one score of the night came early in the second quarter as he lined up behind Horton, took a pitch and was off to the races for a 7-yard TD.
The Lions took advantage of the scrambling of Medford and a couple runs by Kevin Fields to get it close and Field covered the final yard for a score to make it 17-7.
That perked things up a bit as Dixon caught a 38-yard pass from Horton to set up Williams’ 19-yard TD catch.
A fumble recovery by Desmund Hicks put the Bulldogs right back in the driver’s seat and Mason Courtney caught an 8-yard pass, then came right back with a 21-yard run and the Bulldogs led 31-7 at the half.
The Bulldogs lost a TD early in the third quarter when Montrell Smith was upended at what should have been a 30-yard score. He fumbled when he landed in the end zone, and the officials gave the ball to the Lions.
Phillips would kick a 34-yarder early in the fourth to put the Bulldogs up 34-7.
Henderson finally got its passing game going late, and thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone, Fields got another score from the 2.
A final try to make it close by the Lions gave another senior a chance to shine for Carthage as Ja’von King picked off a pass to end the last threat.
“I thought we did well in the first half — not great but pretty good,” Surratt said. “Once we got up 17-0, we had a bit of a letdown and there was no doubt in the kids’ mindset that we were going to win.
“I’d have liked to have finished better, but this gives us a lot of work on and improve to get ready for Kilgore and the playoffs.”
The Bulldogs finished the night with 368 total yards, 107 rushing and 261 passing.
Courtney finished with 97 yards on the ground and caught three passes for 20 yards.
Horton was 15-24-0 for 261 and the one touchdown. Williams caught five for 96 and Dixon caught five for 82.
Rayvon Ingram led the Bulldog defense with 15 tackles and a sack.
Fields had 107 of the Lions 158 yards rushing, while Medford was 5-13-1 for 77 yards.
Carthage 34, Henderson 14
Henderson 0 7 0 7 — 14
Carthage 10 21 0 3 — 34
First downs 13 17
Rushung/yds 35-158 24-107
Passing yds 77 261
Passing 5-13-1 15-24-0
Fum/lost 1-1 4-2
Punts/Avg 1-36.0 1-50
Pen/Yds 4-45 3-35
CAR — Brennan Phillips 25 field goal, 7:43
CAR — Mason Bobo 18 fumble return (Phillips kick), 5:35
CAR — Kelvontay Dixon 7 run (Phillips kick), 10:19
HEN — Kevin Fields 1 run (Trust Carston kick), 6:50
CAR — Kel Williams 19 pass from Kai Horton (Phillips kick), 2:36
CAR — Mason Courtney 21 run (Phillips kick), 1:38
CAR — Phillips 34 field goal, 9:34
HEN — Fields 2 run (Carston kick), 7:21.
RUSHING: (H) Kevin Fields 18-107; Caleb Medford 12-40; Jakobie Bussey 3-11; TEAM 2-0; (C) Mason Courtney 10-97; Kelvontay Dixon 2-(-7), Kai Horton 4-(-12); Jaden Thomas 4-28; Rayvon Ingram 1-3; Anthony Wilson 1-2; TEAM 2-(-4).
PASSING: (H) Medford 5-13-1, 77 yards; (C) Horton 15-24-0, 261 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING: (H) Jy Fuller2-49; Fields 1-12; Bussey 1-8; Tobaius Jackson 1-8; (C) Dixon 5-82; Kel Williams 4-96; Courtney 3-20; Montrell Smith 1-30; Craig McNew 2-39.