CARTHAGE — Three-time defending state champion Carthage had its 22-game home winning streak snapped Friday night, but top-ranked Chapel Hill earned every bit of its 21-20 victory.
Chapel Hill shook off early injuries to quarterback Avery Saenz and two-way standout Andrew Tucker, and stuffed Carthage on a potential game-winning two-point conversion with 31 seconds remaining in a thriller before about 6,000 at Bulldog Stadium.
Blake Bogenschutz’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Edward Pope on fourth down brought Carthage (1-2) to within a point, but the sophomore quarterback was wrapped up before crossing the goal line on the ensuing two-point try.
Chapel Hill (3-0) recovered the onside kick and remained perfect on the season.
However, the win was accomplished under less than perfect conditions.
Saenz, who entered with 10 touchdown passes through two games, injured his ankle early in the second quarter and never returned. Saenz will have his ankle x-rayed today. Tucker, a starter at both running back and linebacker, took the first carry of the game for seven yards but that was it. He left with a hamstring injury.
Jay Reagan and Anthony Kincade filled in admirably. Reagan rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, while Kincade completed 8 of 12 passes for 68 yards and also scored on a 34-yard run.
Chapel Hill carried a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but Pope — a senior receiver and safety who is committed to TCU — made his presence felt on both sides of the ball down the stretch.
The rangy, 6-4 playmaker leaped high for an interception and on the ensuing possession hauled in a 48-yard completion to set up a Trent Jackson 3-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 21-14 with 8:01 remaining.
On Carthage’s final possession of the game, Pope came down with a 38-yard catch on fourth-and-20 from his own 10 that kept the game alive for Carthage.
Pope finished with seven catches for 150 yards. Bogenschutz completed 13 of 29 passes for 230 yards, and Tevin Pipkin led Carthage on the ground with 102 yards on 22 attempts.
The game couldn’t have started any better for Chapel Hill after Pipkin fumbled on the game’s first play, setting Chapel Hill up on Carthage’s 43-yard line.
Eight plays later, Reagan burst up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Chapel Hill lead.
Carthage marched down the field on the ensuing possession, tying the game at 7-7 on Jackson’s 33-yard run with 7:24 remaining in the opening quarter.
Chapel Hill was forced into a three-and-out on the next drive, but was fortunate enough to pounce on a muffed punt by Carthage at the opposing 22.
But Chapel Hill couldn’t capitalize as Reagan coughed up the ball at the 6, giving the ball back to Carthage.
The defense stiffened for Chapel Hill, but when the Bulldogs went back on offense, Saenz was lost for the remainder of the game when he appeared to injure his right ankle after a 6-yard gain.
For the moment it didn’t matter. Kincade found the end zone on the very next play when he took the snap and dashed 34 yards for a touchdown to put Chapel Hill in front 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Carthage moved the ball inside Chapel Hill territory later in the half, looking for the equalizer, but Bogenschutz’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Chapel Hill defensive end Kendall Beal.
Chapel Hill had a shot to build its lead right before halftime, but Tyler Brown’s 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
No. 1 Chapel Hill 21, Carthage 20
At Bulldog Stadium, Carthage
Chapel Hill 7 7 7 0 – 21
Carthage 7 0 0 13 – 20
CH—Jay Reagan 7 run (Tyler Brown kick), 9:22.
CAR—Trent Jackson 33 run (Jimmy Gonzales kick), 7:24.
CH—Anthony Kincade 34 run (Brown kick), 9:46.
CH—Reagan 13 run (Brown kick), 5:29.
CAR—Jackson 3 run (Gonzales kick), 8:01.
CAR—Edward Pope 31 pass from Blake Bogenschutz (run failed), :31.
First Downs 17 18
Rushes-Yards 41-240 29-125
Passing Yards 95 230
Comp.-Att.-Int. 10-18-1 13-30-1
Punts-Avg. 4-40.8 5-27.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 6-40 3-40
RUSHING—Chapel Hill, Jay Reagan 23-166, Anthony Kincade 8-48, Avery Saenz 3-12, Andrew Tucker 1-7, Jalen Williams 4-4, Avery Henderson 2-3. Carthage, Tevin Pipkin 22-102, Trent Jackson 2-36, Blake Bogenschutz 5-(-13).
PASSING— Chapel Hill, Kincade 8-12-1—68, Saenz 2-6-0—27. Carthage, Bogenschutz 13-29-1—230, Jaylon Allison 0-1-0—0.
RECEIVING— Chapel Hill, Nelson Onwuzu 7-74, Patrick Day 1-12, Jason Hill 1-6, Reagan 1-2. Carthage, Edward Pope 7-150, Clint Cage 3-49, O’Keeron Rutherford 1-12, Meechie Bowman 1-11, Rickey Ingram 1-7.