Football powerhouse Carthage visits Tyler on Friday for what the Bulldogs hope is another step in their journey to the state football championship game next month.
Crandall (10-2) and Carthage (12-0) meet in a Class 4A Division I regional contest at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Earl Campbell Field. The game was originally scheduled for a 5 p.m. start but was moved to an earlier starting time due to potential inclement weather.
Carthage is the home team.
The winner advances to meet either Palestine (7-5) or Midlothian Heritage (8-4) next week in the state quarterfinals. Palestine and Heritage meet at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Waco Midway’s Panther Stadium in Hewitt.
Carthage has won six state championships — 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2017.
After beginning the season with a 42-0 loss to Chapel Hill, not many predicted the Pirates would be three rounds deep in the playoffs.
Since then, Crandall lost another non-district game to Dallas Carter (39-22) and although Midlothian Heritage defeated the Pirates, 23-7, on the field Crandall got the win due to Heritage playing an ineligible player.
This will be the fourth game for Crandall against a District 10-4A Division I team, the first was against Chapel Hill with the second against Palestine (24-20 win) in non-district and the third in bi-district against Kilgore (14-0 win). It will also be the fifth game against common opponents with Athens also in the mix as the Pirates beat the Hornets, 52-28.
The Bulldogs were perfect against those four schools, outscoring them 181-39.
The Pirates are averaging 24.8 points per game and giving up 14.8.
Quarterback Holt Reese leads the Bucs by hitting 121 of 204 passing attempts for 1,693 yards with 16 TDs and six interceptions. He does not run that often, having rushed 76 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore Damarion Wigenton is Crandall’s leading rusher, gaining 589 yards and scoring five TDs on 108 carries. Billy Myers is the top receiver with 47 catches for 769 yards and six TDs.
“Crandall is a team with good speed,” Carthage head coach Scott Surratt said. “They mainly run the spread, but they’ll run some two-back, some screens and they like the RPO’s (run-pass option). They have a big, strong back and a pair of dynamic receivers.”
Surratt added, “They’re real proud of their defense and they’re only giving up something like 15 points a game. Their linebacker (Carl Johnson) is very physical. Their defensive line is one of the best one’s we’ve seen in a while, and No. 52 (Calob Davis) is their leader.”
The Bulldogs continue to put up big numbers offensively, despite holding Kelvontay Dixon out with a small injury last week. Quarterback Kai Horton is 189 of 313 passing for 2,797 yards with 38 TDs and four interceptions. Mason Courtney has now rushed for 1,156 yards and 12 scores, while catching 25 passes for 330 yards and two scores.
Dixon is still the leading receiver with 57 catches for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns. Kel Williams has 41 for 748 yards and eight touchdowns, while Craig McNew has 25-372 and five scores.
Rayvn Ingram continues to lead the Bulldogs in tackles with 93, despite missing last week’s game. He also has two interceptions and two sacks. Jai Brazier is next in tackles with 82 after dominating last week with Ingram out. Quinton Owens and Kylon Lister both have 79, Mason Bobo has 70 and Cole Whitlock and D.J. Hicks both have 64.
The Bulldogs average 40.4 points per game and give up 9.9.
The Panola Watchman’s J. Scott Russell contributed to this report.