It took a few plays for the Carthage passing game to get clicking in Friday night’s home opener against Liberty-Eylau.
But once it started, there didn’t appear to be a button to turn it off — at least in the first half.
Kai Horton threw five first-half touchdown passes and Kelvontay Dixon was on the receiving end of two of them as the Bulldogs built a big halftime lead and never looked back cruising to a 49-7 win over the Leopards.
The Bulldogs improve to 2-0 on the season and will host the Marshall Mavericks next Friday night in a 7:30 p.m. game. The Leopards fall to 0-2.
In all, Horton was 16 of 22 passing for 275 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions all in the first half. He also completed seven straight at one point and got off to a 5-of-8 start after starting 2-of-10 last week.
“I thought we played fast and physical,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “I was excited in the passing game. The defense was very physical again. We did give up one big play, and we can’t let that happen.
“We’re getting better. We were so much better from the first week to last week.”
Carthage did score on its first possession; it just took almost eight minutes to get into the end zone. Mason Courtney did the honors, going in from the 1.
The second TD came a lot quicker after a 3-and-out by the defense — which played another exceptional ballgame.
Horton hooked up with Quinton Owens on a 3-yard touchdown and the score was quickly 14-0.
The Leopards kept the Bulldogs from pitching a second shutout on the young season, scoring from long distance as Korbyn White went up for and caught a pass the defender misplayed, then showing his speed on the way for a 50-yard touchdown.
“We’re going to make some mistakes, but we didn’t have as many as we did the first week,” Surratt said. “We were more crisp in the passing game. We did have some pre-snap penalties, but you’re going to have that with a new quarterback. “
That must have made the Bulldogs mad because they responded with a 35-point second quarter.
Dixon, who finished with four catches for 111 yards, hooked up with Horton on a short pass and took it 25 yards for the score, going the last five yards carrying at least two Leopards and running over a third at the goal line.
Montrell Smith caught a 3-yard touchdown from Horton to make it a 28-7 lead.
The defense set up the next score as Desmond Hicks picked off a screen pass deep in Leopard territory. Courtney took it in from the 10 to add to the lead.
Dixon showed why he is one of the top area players on the next drive as he and Horton hooked up for their second TD.
Faced with a second-and-31 after an intentional grounding call, Dixon ran a skinny post to get back all the yardage in one play. Actually, he got a little more as he caught the pass in stride and pulled away from the defenders for a 69-yard touchdown.
The Leopards gave Carthage the ball back at the 30 with time running out in the half and the Bulldogs were more than happy to take advantage of it.
Horton and Kel Williams hooked up on a 23-yard touchdown with 29.2 left to make it a 49-7 at the half.
Despite substituting freely in the second half, the Bulldogs didn’t allow a second touchdown. They didn’t score one either as they made two trips into the Red Zone but came away empty both times. They were stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 and missed a 30-yard field goal.
They did get another interception from Austin Morgan and Jakeviyon Tuiel recovered a fumble. The Leopards managed just 48 yards rushing and 71 yards passing, with 50 of it coming on the TD.
The defense ended up with two 3-and-outs, three 4-and-outs and stopped three drives with turnovers.
The Bulldogs finished 23-32-0 for 337 yards as Anthony Wilson was 7-10-0 for 62 yards in the second half. Carthage finished with 129 yards on the ground led by Jaden Thomas with 47, Courtney with 46 and Braeden Wade with 35. Other top receivers for the home team were Wade with six catches for 35 yards, Williams three for 47, Smith three for 33 yards and Courtney two for 33.CARTHAGE 49, LIBERTY-EYLAU 7
Liberty-Eylau 7 0 0 0 — 7
Carthage 14 35 0 0 — 49
First downs 6 21
Rushing/yds 28-48 33-129
Passing/yds 71 337
Passing 3-14-2 23-32-0
Total off 42-119 65-466
Punts/yds 5-26.4 0-0
Fum/lost 2-1 0-0
Pen/yds 8-63 8-65
C — Mason Courtney 1 run (Brennan Phillips kick) — 4:45
C — Quinton Owens 3 pass from Kai Horton (Phillips kick) — 1:03
L-E — Korbyn White 50 pass from Parker Goodman (Gregorio Aguilar) — 2.3
C — Kelvontay Dixon 25 pass from Horton (Phillips kick) — 10:07
C — Montrell Smith 3 pass from Horton (Phillips kick) — 7:26
C — Courtney 10 run (Phillips kick) — 6:34
C — Dixon 69 pass from Horton (Phillips kick) — 3:27
C — Kel Williams 23 pass from Horton (Irvin Jimenez kick) — 9.2
RUSHING: (LE) Damian Henderson 14-30; Goodman 6-6; T.J. Templeton 5-15; Ezekiel Brown 3-(-3); (C) Jaden Thomas 6-47; Mason Courtney 11-46; Braeden Wade 2-35; Nick Stewart 6-1; Vontavious Gipson 5-3; Anthony Wilson 2-1; Si Schumacher 1-1; Horton 1-(-5).
PASSING: (LE) Goodman 3-9-1, 71 yards; Brown 0-5-1; C) Horton 16-33-0, 275 yards; Wilson 7-10-0, 63 yards.
RECEIVING: (LE) Korbyn White 2-64; Malik Watson 1-7; (C) Wade 6-35; Kelvontay Dixon 4-111, 2 TDs; Kel Williams 3-47, 1 TD; Montrell Smith 3-33, 1 TD; Courtney 2-33; Stewart 1-20; Cartrell Fulton 1-10; Kaleb Chandler 1-9; Owens 1-3, 1 TD.
INTERCEPTIONS: (C) Desmond Hicks; Austin Morgan.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: (C) Jakeviyon Tuiel.