OK. The regular season is done and it’s time for the playoffs.
Win five games and you’ll find yourself playing in Jerry’s World for a state title.
Lose at any time and your season is over. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team you’ve already beaten or one that doesn’t belong in the same stadium with you.
It could be one and done.
Here’s a look at the 2019 Carthage Bulldogs’ Road to State.
GAME 1: Carthage 49, Athens 14
JACKSONVILLE — The Carthage Bulldogs gave the Athens Hornets a mixed look at their offense at the Tomato Bowl.
The hard-nose running of Mason Courtney was 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 as the No. 4 Bulldogs made short work of the Hornet in the Region III-4A bi-district playoff game, 49-14.
So Horton went to Kel Williams for a 30-yard touchdown on the next play.
Carthage’s pooch kickoff 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.
The Dawgs answered with a Rayvon Ingram 3-yard run and a 17-yard TD to Craig McNew.
Courtney finished with 156 yards and got in the end zone in the third to make it 35-7.
Game 2: Carthage 55, Lumberton 17
LUMBERTON — The total offense numbers were a little down at halftime for both the No. 2 Carthage Bulldogs and the Lumberton Raiders at Raider Stadium.
The Raiders, because they weren’t able to move the ball that much and lost a lot of yardage with bad punt snaps and a long quarterback sack.
The Bulldogs, because they only had to cover 23 yards to pick up two of their first three scores.
Carthage opened it up a bit more in the second half, including a pair of touchdowns from down on the depth chart, to roll to a commanding 55-17 win over the Raiders in the Region III-4A area playoff game.
Kai Horton and Kel Williams hooked up for a 24-yard TD to get things started, while a QB sack for a 17-yard loss by Cole Whitlock and a bad snap on the punt gave Carthage the ball at the 4. Mason Courtney carried it in from the 1 to make it 14-0.
A bad snap that Desmund Hicks recovered at the 19, started the next drive and it ended the same way with Courtney, who finished with 70 yards rushing, going in from the 1.
Carthage led 27-7 at the half as Horton hooked up with Montrell Smith on a 3-yard TD.
A 3-and-out by the Bulldog defense early in the second half turned into a Braeden Wade 25-yard touchdown pass from Horton, while another bad snap paved the way for a 35-yard touchdown pass to Williams, his second, from Horton, his fourth, to make it a 41-7 lead.
The Bulldog starters may have been through, but there was still a quarter left to play. So backup QB Anthony Wilson hooked up with Daivota Duncan for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 48-14 with 11:15 left, and Kavonte Brown-Hoskins closed out Carthage’s scoring with an 18-yard run.
GAME 3: Carthage 52, Crandall 21
TYLER — Stopping the No. 2 Carthage Bulldogs isn’t the easiest thing to do, and teams have been trying to accomplish that goal for years.
The Crandall Pirates tried and failed at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Bowl Stadium.
Junior tailback Mason Courtney was held in check for much of the game, but his consistent pounding early helped open things up, and the success of the Bulldogs’ passing game made the outcome evident for most of the contest as they left the stadium with a comfortable 52-21 win over the Pirates.
The win was the 13th straight for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs also like to mix in something deep, and after a bomb was a little overthrown, they settled for a 10-yard TD pass to Kel Williams from Kai Horton. But Courtney also caught three passes for 48 yards and was on the receiving end of a 17-yard touchdown pass from Horton to close the first half.
He opened the second half with a 4-yard touchdown run — set up by a 44-yard pass to Kelvontay Dixon — to regain control for the Bulldogs.
The other early scoring for the Bulldogs came through the air as Kel Williams caught a 10-yarder from Horton and Dixon made a one-hand catch for an 8-yard touchdown.
GAME 4: Carthage 24, Midlothian Heritage 7
JACKSONVILLE — Going for it on fourth down has become a bit of a habit for Carthage Head Coach Scott Surratt.
So being the punter on the No. 2 team in the state doesn’t get a lot of work.
Surratt and the Bulldogs got all four of their scores on fourth-down plays, taking advantage of what Midlothian Heritage gave them on the way to a 24-7 win at the Tomato Bowl in the Region III-4A Finals.
They opened the scoring on a fourth-down pass from Kai Horton to Braeden Wade of 18 yards. The team had scored earlier on a sweep by Kelvontay Dixon, but a holding penalty brought it back.
Dixon put the ball in the end zone on a 4-yard run to put the Bulldogs up 14-0 with 4:39 left in the first.
The Bulldogs finally passed on running a play on fourth down midway through the second period, settling for a 24-yard Brennan Phillips field goal.
A decision not to punt may have cost Bulldogs their shutout, because Heritage took the ball and the momentum and finally got on the scoreboard on the final play of the first half.
Their momentum didn’t last long as the Bulldogs got a 3-and-out at the Jaguars’ 38.
Horton picked up the final yard of the drive — on fourth down — to make it a 24-7 lead for the Bulldogs. It was his first rushing touchdown of the season after throwing for 43 and catching a pass for another.
The defense made its presence felt as Rayvon Ingram had a couple of sacks and Mason Bobo, Quinton Owens and De’Aundrey Bowman all had interceptions.
GAME 5: Carthage 49, Lampasas 42
NEW CANEY — Kelvontay Dixon saw the long and the short for the No. 2 Carthage Bulldogs in the state seminal game at Randall Reed Stadium.
The long was a 95-yard touchdown pass to swing momentum back to the Bulldogs in their showdown with the No. 6 Lampasas Badgers.
The short was a 3-yard touchdown pass with 13.8 seconds left to give the Bulldogs the lead for good in a 49-42 win and the right to play for the state title.
Actually in a game that featured scoring as quick as you could turn around, all Dixon’s second TD did was put Carthage on top.
The left-handed passing of Lampasas’ Ace Whitehead still had a few seconds left.
The senior hit his favorite receiver Jaylon Porter for what turned into a 37-yard pass and time from one play from the 22 with 2.6 seconds left. Whitehead’s final pass fell incomplete.
The two teams combined for 91 points and more than 900 yards of total offense. But it was the defense that did the early scoring.
Ja’Von King picked off a Whitehead pass on the opening possession and returned it 68 yards for the game’s first score.
Javonte Brown-Hoskins filled in a little at running back for the Dawgs and raced 43 yards up the middle for a TD and a 14-0 Carthage lead early in the second quarter.
But the Badgers returned the favor with a 35-yard interception return for a TD by Case Brister after Whitehead and Porter hooked up for a 20-yard TD.
The Badgers went up on a Jack Jerome 2-yard run, but Whitehead missed the PAT.
That look big at the half as White was hit while throwing and Mason Bobo picked it off and returned it 66 yards for a score and a 21-20 halftime lead.
Mason Courtney, who finished with 100 yards, opened the second-half scoring with a 4-yard TD, but Cameron Everts caught a 40-yard TD to make it a 29-28 game.
After a couple punts, the Bulldogs went long as Kai Horton hit Dixon at midfield. The senior stopped, put a move on the defensive back and outraced the rest of the secondary for the 95-yard TD.
The Badgers kept coming as Daunte Cuffie closed a drive with a 13-yard TD run.
Courtney and Horton hooked up for a 5-yard TD with 5:28 left, but Everts and Whitehead connected on a 12-yard pass and then the two-point conversion to tie it with 2:49 remaining.
The Bulldogs started from their own 32 with passes to Montrell Smith and Craig McNew, keeping the drive alive. A pass interference penalty gave the Bulldogs a first down at the 12 and Horton picked up nine yards on a keeper to get to the 3.
That set up the game-winner to Dixon and the chance for a seventh state title for the Bulldogs.