By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Carthage, Mo. — Sparked by an absolutely dominant first half on both sides of the ball, Carthage rolled to its sixth-straight district title Friday night with a 35-0 victory over Nixa.
Led by the three-headed monster of Kale Schrader, Tyler Mueller and Patrick Carlton, Carthage scored on its first five possessions and racked up 348 yards of offense in the game.
Schrader and Mueller each notched a pair of scores, while Carlton threw for three.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers were just as dominant, forcing a pair of turnovers and allowing Nixa only 14 yards of offense in the first half.
Carthage head coach Jon Guidie was quick to praise his team’s defensive effort and its ability to create havoc in the Nixa backfield all evening.
“I felt like tonight, our defense was exceptional,” Guidie said. “They might have played their best half of football of the season. We created some turnovers, made some big plays, got them behind the sticks and pressured their quarterback, which I thought was going to be a key.”
Thanks to favorable field position, Carthage wasted little time getting on the board.
The Tigers put together an 8-play, 53-yard opening drive on their opening possession that ended with a Mueller 2-yard touchdown run.
Following a Schrader interception, Carthage took over near midfield once again.
Seven plays later, Carlton connected with Schrader on a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Early in the second, Mueller punched in a second score from four yards out to give Carthage a commanding 20-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers caught Nixa off-guard with a successful onside kick.
Carlton needed only a half-dozen plays before he was able to find Schrader, once again, on a quick screen to the left.
The 200-pound senior running back gathered the pass, and then rumbled 27 yards for his second score of the evening.
Even more impressive were the moves Schrader pulled off inside the 10-yard line to evade one would-be tackler and steamroll a second en route to the end zone.
“On my first touchdown that kid hit me after I was in the end zone, and I was a little upset about it,” Schrader said. “So, I caught that pass, and I was going around there with fire in my eyes — I was getting revenge. I hit a little stutter step and stiff-armed [the first defender], and when the second kid came, I just lowered my shoulder and barrelled my way through.”
Down 27-0, Nixa got its first break of the game when a muffed punt was recovered deep in Carthage territory; however, the Eagles were unable to turn the opportunity into points.
On Nixa’s first play from scrimmage inside the red zone, Reid Potts was picked off in the end zone by Justin Sneed.
Five plays later, Carlton sealed its sixth-straight district title with a 63-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Marcus Huntley.
While the end result wasn’t what Nixa had hoped for, head coach Richard Rehagen praised his team for coming together and putting itself in a position to succeed late in the season with a shot at a district title.
“I told them I was proud of them,” Rehagen said. “We didn’t start very well this year — we were 0-2 and then 1-3 — and we’re this and that. I’m just proud of the way they came on. We got a lot better this year and played some good football.”
Nixa finishes its season at 5-6.
For Carthage’s close-knit group of seniors, continuing the tradition and getting another shot at a deep, postseason means everything.
All-state lineman Oscar Campa attributed the Tigers’ success to simple attention to detail.
“Don’t try to be a superhero,” Campa said. “Just do what you’re told to do and, in the end, everything will work out the way it did tonight.”
While he and his teammates were thrilled to capture another district championship and continue the school’s tradition, Campa was quick to point to the team’s bigger goal.
Not only is Carthage seeking a third-straight trip to the Class 5 final four, the Tigers believe they have what it takes to challenge for a state title.
“This team is hungry, and we want to win state — that’s the goal,” Campa said. “We’re happy right now, but we can’t be satisfied.”
Carthage (9-2) will continue its state championship quest next week with a quarterfinal matchup at Springfield Glendale (6-5). The Falcons upset top-seeded Waynesville 42-28 to capture the District 5 title.
C5D6 Championship: Carthage – 35, Nixa – 0
Nixa 0 0 0 0 — 0
Carthage 13 22 0 0 — 35
First quarter scoring
Carthage – Tyler Mueller 2-yard TD rush – 7-0
(Marcus Huntley kick)
Carthage – Kale Schrader 16-yard TD rec from Patrick Carlton – 13-0
Second quarter scoring
Carthage – Mueller 4-yard TD rush – 20-0
Carthage – Schrader 27-yard TD rec from Carlton – 27-0
Carthage – Huntley 63-yard TD rec from Carlton – 35-0
(Carlton 2-pt conversion rush)