FRISCO — As Carthage ran through onto the field to start the game, the Bulldogs broke through a sign that read, “Hey La Vega, we think it’s time for a rematch.” Two years ago, the Pirates topped Carthage 39-3 in the state semifinals to advance to the state championship where La Vega topped Argyle, 33-31, to win the title.
Three hours later, Carthage got its revenge as the Bulldogs defeated La Vega, 46-39, Friday night inside the Ford Center. Carthage came out fast and popped the Pirates in the mouth.
After the Bulldogs scored off an 11-yard touchdown pass from Gunner Capps to Dee Bowens, the Carthage defense quickly doubled that lead.
On La Vega’s third play of the night, Jamal Williams was picked off by Mekhi Colbert who caught the ball at the Pirate 27-yard line and took it all the way to the end zone. La Vega then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which the Bulldogs scored off of one play later.
At this time, up by 21 over the Pirates not even halfway through the first half, Carthage recovered an onside kick for another shot at starting an offensive drive on the La Vega side of the 50.
Now it was La Vega’s turn to force a turnover as the Pirates recovered a fumble by Bulldog Capps. La Vega got on the board seven plays later off a 45-yard run by Demicco Chambliss.
The Pirates capitalized off another Bulldog turnover late in the second quarter. Braylon Watkins sacked Capps on 3rd-and-10 and forced a fumble that La Vega recovered. Only 29 yards out of the end zone, John Richards needed to touch the ball only once to score.
That cut Carthage’s lead to 14 as the Bulldogs scored once more midway through the second quarter. Carthage looked to go into the locker room at the half up by three touchdowns as the Bulldogs marched down to the La Vega five-yard line. A holding penalty backed Carthage up to the 11 and two straight incomplete passes made the Bulldogs decide to go for the field goal. But they missed it.
That gave La Vega the football with under a minute left in the half. Richards took the first snap of the drive and zoomed away from most of the Carthage defense as only one defensive back was fast enough to catch him.
That run, along with a 16-yard completion from Williams to Caleb Wright, set up a field goal opportunity for the Pirates with a second left. But the attempt went wide left.
That didn’t derail La Vega, though, as the Pirates kept fighting. After the La Vega defense limited Carthage to a field goal early in the third quarter, Jared Rogers recovered a Bulldog fumble that set the Pirate offense up at the Carthage 28-yard line. After a pass interference penalty was called on 3rd and long, it was all Richards as he kept it 11 yards for the touchdown.
La Vega looked to score after recovering another Carthage fumble, but a blocked punt set the Bulldogs up eight yards outside the end zone. That was pocket change for Carthage running back Keaontay Ingram who racked up more than 150 yards on the night. The Bulldogs only scored once more after that as the Pirate offense scrapped their way back to within single digits of Carthage.
On 4th-and-10 with 8:22 left, Jamal Williams pass to Johnathan Brown for a 24-yard score. That cut the Bulldog lead to 12. A little over five minutes later, after forcing Carthage to punt, Williams hit Joshua Bryant on 4th-and-4 for a 36-yard touchdown.
That score cut the Bulldog lead to six with 3:44 left to play. But Carthage didn’t take long to answer. Merely 11 seconds after the Pirate touchdown, Ingram carried the ball 46 yards into the end zone to put the Bulldogs up by 14.
That didn’t slow down the Pirates, though. La Vega converted on third down twice and fourth down once before Williams connected with Jordan McKinney for an 18-yard touchdown pass with a little over one minute left to play.
Overall, La Vega outgained Carthage, 463-266. The Pirates had more rushing yards alone (317). But it was the 21-0 start by the Bulldogs that sealed the state championship game berth for Carthage.
After Carthage went up 21-0, La Vega outscored the Bulldogs 39-25. Richards led the Pirate running backs with 164 yards on the night. Williams went 10-for-19 through the air for 146 yards in addition to 30 rushing yards.