FRISCO, Texas — It’s Carthage’s world and we’re just here to sit back and enjoy the show.
In their closest game this season, Carthage held off scrappy Waco La Vega to advance to the 4A Division I State Championship Game next Friday at AT&T Stadium — thanks to some late heroics from star running back Keaontay Ingram and the Bulldogs special teams.
Carthage (15-0) has won 25 straight games, while La Vega (14-1) last for just the second time in their last 44 games.
This will be Carthage’s seventh state championship appearance and the sixth under Head Coach Scott Surratt.
“It’s a dream to play for one, but six…that’s just crazy,” Surratt said. “We’re gonna try to enjoy the moment, but [there’s] gonna be a lot of nerves, and a lot of excitement throughout the week, and when it comes down to it we just gotta play good football.”
Carthage came out firing, with an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gunner Capps to receiver Dee Bowens to give Carthage an early 7-0 lead. Carthage’s defense then came up big after Mekhi Colbert intercepted a La Vega pass on the third play of the night and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
“It felt great, we just wanted to keep pounding and pounding,” Colbert said about his pick-6. “We just wanted to keep that lead going.”
La Vega’s troubles didn’t end there, though.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Pirates fumbled and Carthage’s Rayvon Ingram scooped up the turnover and took it to La Vega’s 8-yard line. Colbert again found the end zone, this time by on an 8-yard pass from Capps — giving the Bulldogs a 21-0 only five minutes into the game.
While Carthage recovered an onside kick after the score and had the ball in La Vega territory, the Pirates made a play to shift momentum in their favor.
Capps fumbled the ball and Jaelyn Maladdie recovered at the Pirate 20-yard line, giving the Pirates a chance to get back in the game. La Vega didn’t waste the opportunity, as Demico Chambliss scored on a 44-yard run that earned the first score of the game with 3:30 left to play in the first quarter.
Colbert got his third TD of the night in the second quarter, this time on the ground with a 2-yard run for the score, but turnovers plagued the Bulldogs all night long. Capps fumbled the ball again and gave the Pirates prime field position at Carthage’s 29-yard line after a Donta Stuart recovery. The turnover led to a John Richard 29 yards touchdown run score as La Vega cut the deficit to two touchdowns.
Ahead 31-14 in the second half, Capps fumbled the ball for the third time. La Vega took advantage of the turnover, scoring on Richard’s second touchdown — one of the 11-yard variety.
And while La Vega struck with Jamal Williams’ 24-yard strike to Jonathan Brown and Williams’ 37-yard pass to Joshua Bryant to draw the deficit to six points, it was Carthage’s 6-foot and 200-pound perennial senior star that helped seal a state title berth.
Keaontay Ingram scored his first touchdown of the night from three yards out to extend the Carthage lead 38-20 in the fourth and then again a pair of series later on a 46-yard rumble — a backbreaking score that cave the Bulldogs a two-touchdown advantage.
“Just go score, keep running,” Surratt said as he saw Ingram streak down the wide-open field for the score.
La Vega scored one more time on Williams’ 18-yard pass to Jordan McKinney, but an onside kick, Carthage recovery, and a kneel ended the Pirates season one game shy of the state title game.
Carthage will face Kennedale High School, who defeated Stephenville to reach next Friday’s 4A Division I State Championship, at 11 a.m. at AT&T Stadium.
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