JACKSONVILLE — Last season, Heritage High School and Carthage hooked up in an overtime classic for the ages. This time, the Bulldogs’ defense made sure the game was never in doubt for them.
The Bulldogs limited the Jaguars to 175 yards and intercepted three passes, taking a 24-7 win on Friday night at Tomato Bowl Stadium in a Class 4A Division I state quarterfinal game.
Carthage (14-0) advances to the 4A Division I state semifinals and will play Lampasas, a 49-34 winner against Liberty Hill in the Region IV final on Saturday afternoon.
Cade Sumbler finished 12-of-26 for 107 yards and a touchdown for the Jags, and Sumbler also wound up as the team’s leading rusher with 12 carries for 38 yards as Heritage managed to gain just 68 yards as a team.
Haydon Wiginton caught five passes for 68 yards and Jay Wilkerson had four catches for 23 yards and the Jags’ lone score on the final play of the first half.
It was a very turbulent but successful season for the Jags (9-5), who advanced farther than any team ever has in Midlothian ISD’s football history. In spite of suffering the most losses in the team’s short four-year history and being forced to forfeit what would’ve been a district-clinching victory against Crandall, Heritage regrouped in the postseason to go four rounds deep.
Carthage, a six-time state champion and 2018 state runner-up, scored on its first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead, kicked a field goal in the second quarter and added a TD on its first series of the second half. All three touchdowns occurred on fourth-down plays.
Bulldog junior Kai Horton was 13-of-23 for 147 yards and a touchdown, adding a rushing TD in the third quarter. Mason Courtney carried 16 times for 93 yards.
The Jags’ defense came to play as well, holding Carthage to 253 total yards. But the offense couldn’t get any traction, save for the final 34 seconds of the first half when they drove to get on the scoreboard and beat the buzzer.
The Bulldogs took the opening kick and drove 59 yards on eight plays, with Horton passing to Braeden Wade for a 13-yard touchdown play. Then after Heritage turned the ball over on downs, Carthage went 55 yards on five plays, and Kelvontay Dixon took it four yards on a misdirection pitch at the 4:39 mark of the opening quarter.
Heritage’s defense righted the ship at that point and kept Carthage out of the end zone the remainder of the half, conceding only a Brennan Phillips field goal with about five minutes remaining.
A Sumbler fourth-down keeper was marked a yard short of the stick turned the ball over on downs. But Carthage’s decision to hand HHS the ball on a silver platter in the final minute of the first half probably cost the Bulldogs a shutout.
A Bulldog gamble on fourth-and-10 backfired when they went for it at their own 44 and a screen pass from Horton to Courtney was blown up by the Jags’ Konner Jones-Searcy for a four-yard loss, giving Heritage a short field.
Sumbler completed two huge passes to Wiginton, the second of which gave the Jags first-and-goal at the Carthage 5 with eight ticks remaining. Sumbler’s first try to Wilkerson was incomplete, but as the clock hit all zeroes, Sumbler found a diving Wilkerson to get the Jags back in the game at the half, 17-7, on Hayden Riggins’ extra point.
However, the Jags were stopped cold to open the second half, and a shanked 24-yard punt gave Carthage another short field. HHS put together a fierce goal-line stand to make it fourth down at the 1, but Horton was able to dive over the pile with 6:28 remaining in the third to make it 24-7.
The Jags never got deeper than the Carthage 34 the rest of the way as the Bulldogs clamped down defensively to snuff out the Jags’ storybook season.