By Chris Parker
Nothing has come easy for the Carthage Tiger football team this year, so it came as no surprise that their first trip to the state title game would be the most tightly contested of all the state football title games.
It took overtime, but the Carthage Tiger football program came away with a 27-21 win over Jackson to take home the Class 5 state title.
“That game was indicative of our season. Our season has been full of ups and downs and obstacles and having to bounce back and resiliency,” Carthage head coach Jon Guidie said. “There is no quit in these guys.”
Carthage got on the board first thanks to a 10-yard run from Tyler Mueller to make it 7-0 as time expired in the first quarter. The Tigers threatened to start putting distance on Jackson midway through the second quarter when quarterback Patrick Carlton hit Marcus Huntley for a 36-yard touchdown. It would be Carlton’s only completion of the half on three attempts.
Jackson would not go quietly though. The Indians scored on a four-yard run from Cael Welker with just 15 seconds left before halftime to make the score 14-7 at the break.
Out of the half, Jackson seized momentum with a pick-six by Blake Blackman to tie the game up a 14-14 less than 90 seconds into the second half.
Carthage would offer a championship response.
The Tigers took the ball back and marched 84 yards in 14 plays taking 6:40 off the clock. Carthage capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Carlton.
“Right off the bat in the third quarter we get hit again with a pick-six. These guys just found a way to do it. It just felt that entire game like something good was going to happen. That is to these guys credit. They just won’t die. They just won’t quit. I am so blessed to be able to coach these guys,” Guidie said.
Jackson would score on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Welker to Michael Schneid to tie the game at 21.
That is how the score would remain until the clock hit 0:00 sending the game into overtime.
Jackson possessed the ball first in the extra period. The Indians appeared to score on a touchdown run on third-and-five from the seven, but a holding penalty called the touchdown back and set Jackson up with a third-and-18.
The next two plays went backwards with Kale Schrader securing a tackle for a loss before Oscar Campa sacked Welker to give the ball back to Carthage where any score would give the Tigers the Class 5 championship.
Carthage went nowhere on the first two plays of its possession setting up a third-and-10 from the 25-yardline.
The Tigers then dialed up a reliable play for Schrader.
“I know that play usually works. Every time Kale is wide open and he is not going to come down without a fight,” Carlton said.
Schrader took the pass and rumbled all the way down to the two-yard line giving Carthage first-and-goal with just two yards standing between the Tigers and glory.
Carthage had already run the ball 57 times for 242 yards in the game, so the entire stadium knew the likely play was going to be rush No. 58 aiming to get yards No. 243 & 244.
This title would fall on the legs of Carlton and the blocking of an offensive line led by seniors Brener Ocana and Campa.
“(I thought) you have to beat that dude across from you. If I beat my dude across from me and everyone has that mentality then we have everyone covered,” Campa said. “If we executed we knew we were going to score that.”
“We have coaches that tell us every single time to play assignment-sound. It paid off tonight. The things we have been working on since March paid off,” Ocana said.
Carlton would take the snap and rumble two yards for a touchdown giving Carthage its first title and setting off a raucous celebration.
“We always had this one goal (from the beginning of the season). We were going to get that state championship. That has been lingering over our heads. We knew we were going to get it with the amount of work we have been putting in. It paid off. I am just in shock that it really just happened,” Campa said.
Carthage finishes the season with a 13-2 record.