The 10th-ranked Center Roughriders tried to make the Carthage Bulldogs one dimensional in Friday night’s District 10-4A opener.
They went with a five-man line and had seven or eight players close to the line of scrimmage, making it tough for the top-ranked Bulldogs to run the ball.
But forcing the Dawgs to pass might not have been the best thing to do.
Carthage quarterback Kai Horton completed 17 of 23 passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns — in just a little over two quarters — as the Bulldogs won their third straight game against a ranked opponent, 56-14, in Bulldog Stadium.
It was the fourth straight win for the Bulldogs as they improve to 4-0 and 1-0 in district play. Center falls to 4-2 and 0-1.
The Dawgs hit the road again next week to take on No. 4 Jasper.
“They tried to load the box and make us one dimensional,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “If anybody plays us like that, we’ve got to throw it and catch it and protect the quarterback. I thought we did a pretty good job of that the other night.
“I thought our players played very composed and very hard.”
Horton, who was named the offensive player of the week for the Bulldogs, completed passes to eight different receivers. His touchdown passes were of 3, 23, 41 and 12 yards.
The 3-yard scoring pass was to Braeden Wade, who also caught passes of 49 and 64 yards.
He also jumped a rout, picking off a Jake Hanson pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs put the game away with a 35-point second quarter as Horton threw for three scores, Mason Courtney ran for one — his second of the game — and Wade added his pick-6.
Wade had a 49-yard reception on the opening series, but he was tackled at the 2. Courtney went over from there to put the Bulldogs up 7-0 just a little over two minutes into the contest.
Carthage would leave points out on the field as they were stopped on a fourth-and goal from the 2 on their next possession.
A pass interference penalty gave the Roughriders a first down, but the Bulldogs got it back quickly as Kip Lewis picked off a Hanson pass and returned it to the 23.
For the night, the Bulldogs intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble, while not turning the ball over.
Penalties hurt the Bulldogs in the first half as they were whistled six times for 55 yards.
But Horton connected with Zay Woods for 22 yards on a fourth-and-12 at the 25. He hit Wade with the 3-yard scoring strike less than a minute into the second quarter to make it 14-0.
The Roughriders didn’t go quietly as they scored on the first play after the kickoff, with KeoModre Horace running through almost the entire Carthage defense for a 77-yard touchdown.
It was almost all Carthage for the rest of half as Horton hooked up with Montrel Hatten for a 23-yard touchdown and Wade got his interception for a score three minutes later.
The Bulldogs gave up two more big runs to Horace, but stiffened at the 18.
Horton got a free play as Center jumped offsides and he connected with Wade for 64 yards to the other 18. Courtney scored from the 1 to make it 35-7.
The senior signal-caller would go deep one more time with time running out in the half, hooking up with Craig McNew for a 41-yard score.
He was 15 of 21 at the half for 299 yards.
Horton hooked up with Noah Paddie for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the Bulldogs’ first possession of the third quarter, and he was finished for the night.
The Bulldogs also got an 8-yard touchdown run from backup quarterback Javarian Roquemore early in the fourth.
Center’s second-half touchdown was a 15-yard TD pass to Makel Johnson.
Horace finished with 190 yards rushing, and the Roughriders had 255 as a team, but Hanson finished with just 64 yards passing.
“Defensively there were just a couple of times where we didn’t stop them on third down and get them off the field,” Surratt said. “They did get some yards off us. He (Horace) is a good running back.
“But I thought we were greatly coached on defense and we played harder than they did.”
Lewis and Nate Marry led the Bulldog defense with 12 stops each, while Camden Foster, the defensive and special teams player of the week, had nine, Brandon King had eight, Freddy Lynch had seven and a fumble recovery, Kylon Lister had five and Je’Kerrick Johnson, Bobby Cooks and Giancarlos Riascos all had four. Shannon Reeves and Kambbrrin McCullough had the other two interceptions.
Carthage finished with 105 yards rushing thanks to team losses with Courtney, who was playing sick, leading the way with 39 yards, while Kavonte Brown had 29 yards and Horton had 25.
Wade finished with three catches for 116 yards, Hatten had five for 61 yards, Nick Stewart had three for 37, Courtney had three for 35, McNew had one for 41 yards. Woods had one for 22 yards, Brown had one for four yards and Paddie had one catch for the 12-yard TD.