By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The last time the Carthage football team was held to just seven points in a game?
It was more than two years ago and the Tigers have played two dozen games since.
But it happened again on Friday night as visiting Webb City trounced the Tigers 32-7 in a battle featuring a pair of teams ranked third in the state in their respective classes.
“Phenomenal job by the defense to play that well,” Webb City coach John Roderique said.
Before the Cardinals turned it into a rout in the second half, this one was a defensive struggle, and a key play just before the half might have been the difference.
With the game tied at 7 and less than one second remaining in the second quarter, Carthage lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The kick was blocked, and Webb City’s Sergio Perez scooped up the loose ball and took off down the sideline for the end zone.
He was finally caught at the 10-yard line, but Carthage was called for a facemask penalty on the play, giving Webb City an untimed down from the 5.
Rather than kick a field goal, the Cardinals went for it and quarterback Kade Hicks scrambled and dove for the goal line to give the Cardinals a 13-7 lead at halftime.
“It got away from us right there,” Carthage coach Jon Guidie said. “Our kids were pretty down at halftime because of it.”
“That one play was probably the difference,” Roderique said. “Obviously if we don’t score there it’s not as big of a deal but I think going in 13-7 was huge for us in this game.”
It was a remarkable turn of events for Webb City, which earlier had faced the prospect of trailing by two touchdowns.
After quarterback Patrick Carlton’s 1-yard touchdown gave Carthage a 7-0 lead with 8:44 left in the half, the Tigers blocked a Webb City punt near midfield and Marcus Huntley recovered the ball at the Webb City 32.
But Webb City’s defense held, forcing a turnover on downs and the Cardinals went on a 69-yard scoring drove to tie the game when Eli Goddard threw a 24-yard touchdown to Jaystin Smith in the back of the end zone.
“That was probably the (defensive) stand that made the difference for us,” Roderique said.
“We always talk about offense complimenting the defense,” he said. “Defense you get a stop, offense you’ve got to go to work. There were some times we really did a nice job of that tonight.”
Carthage received an emotional lift when its defense stopped a Webb City drive at the Tigers’ 39 to open the third quarter, but it couldn’t capitalize on it.
The Tigers drove from their own 16 deep into Webb City territory, but two penalties, including a holding that put them into a third-and-14, stalled the drive and forced a Carthage punt.
That kick pinned the Cardinals inside their own 1, but six plays later Webb City’s Devrin Weathers broke loose for a 60-yard touchdown to make it 19-7 at the end of the third quarter.
“I thought we responded well because we came out after halftime and got a big stop defensively,” Guidie said. “They did exactly what we wanted to do and then our next offensive possession was the one we drove the length of the field and kept getting those penalties. We needed to answer right there. We talked about getting a stop and going down and answering it. It didn’t happen and it got away from us.”
Weathers added a 2-yard touchdown run with 6:08 left in the game for a 26-7 score. Tanner Rogers then picked off a Carlton pass on first down at the 30, leading to a 20-yard touchdown run by Terrell Kabala for the final score.
Webb City finished with 380 yards of offense and Carthage totaled 278. The Cardinals rushed for 286 yards with Weathers gaining 112 and Hicks 99. Carthage finished with 216 yards on the ground, 122 of those from Carlton.
“They are so good and the quarterback, I’m not sure how many times he carried it but he just kind of finds a crease somewhere,” Roderique said. “Seems like we gave up a few yards there in the first half but they only got seven points out of it. I thought our guys played with a lot of guts. Coaches did a nice job getting them ready. Hats off to the defense. Man, they played outstanding.”
“We didn’t make the plays when we needed to,” Guidie said. “Give them credit, they did a good job defensively. I don’t think they turned the ball over. We’ve seen them turn it over a ton and I don’t think they turned it over tonight. And they usually don’t when they play us.”