JACKSONVILLE — The Carthage Bulldogs gave the Athens Hornets a mixed look at their offense Friday night at the Tomato Bowl.
The hard-nose running of Mason Courtney on the ground, while quarterback Kai Horton and his receivers showed them quite a bit of the passing game.
Courtney finished up with 156 hard-fought yards and a touchdown, Horton threw for 299 yards and four scores and the No. 4 Bulldogs made short work of the Hornet in the Region III-4A bi-district playoff game, 49-14.
The Dawgs improve to 11-0 with the win, while the Hornets finish at 6-5. Carthage will square off with Lumberton in the area round at 7 p.m. Friday in Lumberton.
“It was a pretty good performance,” Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt said. “We came out attacking, but we might have been a little nervous. After that first series we played a lot better. We have to keep playing better as each game comes along if we want to be standing when it’s all said and done.
“Mason sets our playoff mentality. He’s got great feet and they’re always moving. He never stops. Kai’s hot right now, especially when he gets good protection. When he sits back there with time to throw we can be dangerous.”
The duo actually hooked up for the first score, but it was called back because of a blindside block. So Horton went to his favorite receiver of the night, hooking up with Kel Williams on a 30-yard touchdown on the next play.
Carthage’s pooch kick paid off on the ensuing kickoff as Jaden Thomas picked up the loose ball after the Hornets couldn’t handle it. After a short run by Courtney, Horton and Kelvontay Dixon combined for a 17-yard TD and a 14-0 lead.
The Hornets were successful with a little power football of their own with Nathan Sims getting into the secondary and taking several Bulldogs to bring him down.
He ended up scoring on an 18-yard run early in the second quarter to cut the lead to 14-7.
Rayvon Ingram scored on a 3-yard run that was was set up by a long pass to Williams.
Craig McNew got into the scoring act, catching a 17-yard TD from Horton late in the half.
A Javon King interception gave Carthage one more chance before the half.
What might have been the best play for both Courtney and Horton was wiped out by a penalty.
The running back caught the ball on a well-executed screen on the right side. He zigged and zagged through the Hornet defense and eventually broke free on the left side for what would have been a 61-yard touchdown. He probably covered more than 100 yards on the play.
The penalty had to be accepted so the Dawgs tried a Hail Mary pass into the end zone but came up short.
Courtney, who finished with 156 yards, finally got in the end zone in the third quarter to make it 35-7.
Athens got a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jerquindon Taylor from Chase Friedrich in the fourth quarter, but Horton hooked up with a wide-open Williams for a 45-yard touchdown. Thomas finished off the scoring, on a drive where he was the feature back, on a 1-yard run.
“It looked like they hurt us defensively at times, and they did score twice,” Surratt said. “But we were very physical, and when it was all over, they only had about 180 yards on us. The defense came through again.”
Carthage finished with 249 yards rushing and 304 yards passing for 553 yards of total offense. The Hornets finished with 115 yards rushing and 71 passing for 186.
Athens 0 7 7 0 — 14
Carthage 14 14 14 7 — 49
CAR — Kel Williams 30 pass from Kai Horton (Brennan Phillips kick), 6:30
CAR — Kelvontay Dixon 17 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 5:36
ATH — Nathan Sims 18 run (Branden Ayabar kick), 11:15
CAR — Rayvon Ingram 3 run (Phillips kick), 8:07
CAR — Craig McNew 13 pass from Horton (Phillips kick), 2:06
CAR — Mason Courtney 3 run (Phillips kick), 4:47
ATH — Jerquindon Taylor 16 pass from Chase Friedrich (Ayabar kick), 1:14
CAR — Williams 45 pass from Horton (Irvin Jimenez kick), 00:56
CAR — Jaden Thomas 1 run (Jimenez kick), 8:52
First downs 13 27
Rushing/yds 27-115 30-249
Passing yds 71 304
Passing 8-17-2 19-27-0
Punts/yds 2-37.5 0-0
Fum/lost 3-1 0-0
Pen/yds 0-0 3-35
RUSHING: (A) Nathan Sims 10-80; Jacorey Roberts 7-22; Chase Friedrich 5-13; J. Taylor 5-0; (C) Mason Courtney 15-156; Jaden Thomas 6-43; Kavonte Brown-Hoskins 4-19; Vontavious Gipson 3-30; Rayvon Ingram 1-3; TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING: (A) Friedrich 8-16-1, 71 yards; Taylor 0-1-1; (C) Kai Horton 18-26-0, 299 yards, 4 TDs; Anthony Wilson 1-1-0, 5 yards.
RECEIVING: (A) Dre Thompson 1-33; Taylor 3-25; Ryan Carnes 2-14; Reed Allen 1-0; Sims 1-(-1); (C) Kel Williams 6-148; Craig McNew 3-41; Kelvontay Dixon 3-55; Courtney 2-13; Montrell Smith 3-17; Braeden Wade 1-14; Hunter Dubose 1-4.