Trying to shut down the offense of the top-ranked Carthage Bulldogs during the 2020 season was next to impossible.
Coaches had two choices — try to stop the pounding running game of Mason Courtney or shut down the air attack from Kai Horton — and neither one of them worked out very well.
Picking between them for top honors in District 10-4A Division II didn’t work out real well either as they were named co-Most Valuable Players by the league’s coaches on a team that dominated the all-district honors off the field the same way they did on.
The Dawgs also picked up three other special honors — linebacker Kip Lewis was the district’s Defensive MVP; sophomore wide receiver Montrel Hatten Jr., was the Offensive Newcomer of the Year; and Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt earned Coach of the Year honors as the Dawgs won their eighth state title.
In all, the state champions had 20 first-team picks — 14 of them, plus two of the special honors, were unanimous selections — six second-round selections and 19 honorable mention picks.
Even though they split the vote for MVP, Horton and Courtney could have easily been the MVP by themselves on offense. But the way they fit together all season — Courtney rushed for three touchdowns and 243 yards and Horton passed for 243 yards and three scores in the 70-12 win over Gilmer — showed they should share the honor.
“Both of them deserve the award,” Surratt said of the offensive stars. “Kip could have been right up there with them, too, the way he played on defense. With the MVP, they’d both tell you that it’s the guys around them, the guys up front blocking for them and catching passes that makes all the difference. And they also could have had better stats, but there were a lot of games they didn’t play more than a half.
“The defense played its part, too. We kind felt like we could give the other team the ball anywhere on the field and they’d stop them. We just about did that against Wimberley.”
Courtney, who was the Offensive MVP in the title game, finished the season with just under 2,000 of total offense and scored 33 touchdowns — 30 on the ground.
Horton was 169-253-2 throwing the ball for just over 2,900 yards and 34 touchdowns. It was a TD pass to him that help jump-start the team in the title game.
“Kip was unanimous as the top defense player and he could have been the district as well,” Surratt said. “He was just a special, special player on a special team.”
Lewis, who is just a junior, led the Bulldogs in tackles with 140, including 17 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Hatten, who caught a bomb for a TD in the season opener, finished with 35 catches for 633 yards and eight touchdowns.
“This was the great start to a varsity career for Montrel,” Surratt said. “He’s going to play a lot of good football in the future.”
Four of the five members of the Carthage starting line were first-team picks as Tee Kellum, Luke Jackson, Karston Williams and Zackary Carlisle were selected and they were all unanimous selections.
Running back Nick Stewart and tight end Montrell Smith were also first teamers on offense, as were Craig McNew, Kavonte Brown-Hoskins and Braeden Wade. Irvin Jiminez, who accounted for most of the Bulldogs PATs, was the first team kicker, Bladden Troquille was the first-team pick at deep snapper, and Jonathan Medrano was a first-team utility specialist at placekicker and punter.
The first team defense had four unanimous picks led by defensive linemen Kylon Lister, Bobby Cooks and Giancarlos Riascos, as well as inside linebacker Camden Foster.
Outside linebacker Nate Marry was a first-team pick as were defensive backs Austin Morgan, Zay Woods and Brandon King.
Offensive players on the second team are lineman Kaed Statton and Woods, one of the few two-way players for the team.
Defensive players on the second team are lineman Je’Kerric Johnson, outside linebacker Freddy Lynch, Wade in the secondary and Noah Paddie as a kick returner.