By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For Doug Buckmaster, playing Carthage is always a unique experience. On one hand, he’s trying to get another pivotal COC win. On the other, he’s competing against the program that helped launch his career and build the reputation as an offensive mastermind.
“I loved my time at Carthage; we had two great years over there,” said Buckmaster. “Hopefully what we did in those two years helped set the foundation for what they’ve done over the last 12 or so years since we’ve been there. Guidie has done a great job and they’ve won a lot of games.”
His players cared much less about Carthage’s recent success – or their feelings – dispatching the visiting Tigers 49-7 in a decisive COC win at Bulldog Stadium.
The win is Carl Junction’s fifth straight of the season.
“I coach the Carl Junction Bulldogs and I’m a Bulldog now,” said Buckmaster. “It’s just another ball game to me now but obviously we’d all like to come out on top. You just go play the game and see how you roll that night and we rolled well tonight.”
Again, it was the Bulldogs physicality defensively – keyed by yet another dominant performance by it’s front – that paved the way to the win.
CJ allowed just 235 yards of total offense, 85 of which came on Carthage’s lone score, a bomb in which Arkell Smith made an acrobatic play on a Zeke Sappington pass.
Smith finished with 148 receiving yards, but Carthage struggled to move the ball outside of him.
“We’ve improved defensively in each of my five years here,” said Buckmaster. “We’ve played at a really high level in the last two years and we might even be playing at a higher level than that now. We’ll see where it all takes us but we have a good football team and if our kids keep practicing and preparing well, this football team still has some more in them.”
Offensively, it was again “The Law Firm” (Ray Weston & Joe Kennedy) that did the heavy lifting for the Bulldogs. Weston rushed for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kennedy rushed for 164 yards and four scores, part of his best performance as Carl Junction’s starting quarterback.
The junior also completed six of his seven pass attempts for another 154 yards. Three of those completions came to state-champion sprinter Aaron Ludders, who finished with a team-high 107 receiving yards.
Carl Junction racked up 506 yards from scrimmage. The Bulldogs also scored a season-high 49 points.
“We understand what Carthage does defensively and hopefully we attacked it the right way; you can coach them up all you want but the kids still have to make plays,” said Buckmaster. “They did exactly that tonight.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Carthage.
It was an especially big night for the Bulldogs, as they continue to try and play their way into home field advantage in the Class 4 – District 5 Tournament.
In a district that is shared with Webb City, Camdenton and West Plains – the four teams are a combined 20-4 this season – each win could be the difference between homefield and traveling to see a state-ranked team.
“Every week is a big week for us because of the conference and district standings,” said Buckmaster. “People don’t understand how important it is. We have a fine football team but right now we’re fourth in the district standings and we want to be in a better spot than that in three more weeks when it’s all said and done. All we can do is take care of our business and let the rest do their thing and see how it all shakes out, but we do have something to play for each week.”
Carl Junction will host Class 5 Willard next week. Carthage will visit previously state-ranked Nixa.