Both teams scored on their first possessions. Carthage moved 62 yards in 11 plays with quarterback Jordan Musser connecting with Seth Beckner for a 21-yard touchdown that after a missed extra point gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
Hillcrest answered with a 4-play, 54-yard drive with Juwan Johnson breaking free 28 yards to give the Hornets a 7-6 lead that they'd never relinquish. On the ensuing kick-off, Carthage misplayed the ball near the sideline at their own 34 yard line, and Hillcrest would recover and score in four plays with Michael Liming going the final seven yards for a 14-6 Hornet advantage.
Carthage immidiately came back with a 10-play, 76-yard surge at 11:11 of the second quarter with Musser's 35 yard pass to Jordan Dangerfield, pulling the Tigers within 14-12 as they again missed an extra point.
Another Johnson touchdown, covering 15 yards to complete a 13-play, 65-yard drive, gave Hillcrest a 21-12 lead at the intermission.
And after each team added a third quarter TD to make it 28-20, the game turned in Hillcrest's favor early in the fourth quarter when Carthage threw an interception at its own 21 yard line.
Three plays later, quarterback Jonah Hill went in from four yards out to put Hillcrest up 35-20, and the Hornets would solidify their hold on the game after stopping Carthage on their ensuing drive which got down to the Hillcrest 27 yard line.
Johnson would then add a late 63-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes for the 49-20 final. Johnson would finish with three touchdowns and 133 yards rushing. Hill also scored three TDs with 146 yards rushing.
Hillcrest now moves on to the Class 4, District 4 championship on the road at Webb City, the defending state champions who have been overwealming this season. But despite losing the number one high school player in the country this season, Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest has managed to win 10 games for the second straight season (last year they were 11-2), win a share of the Ozark Conference title, and make a run in the playoffs.
"Everybody was counting us out because Dorial was gone," Hillcrest head coach John Beckham said. "And we made a little joke out of it. No DGB, no problem and that was kind of our motto. So we carried it through. We wanna play Webb City as many times as we can. It's a tough task but that's how we're gonna get better. And for us to make it back to that game again is a huge accomplishment."