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PREVIEW: 4A, DI CHAMPIONSHIP: Carthage (15-0) vs. Kennedale (14-1)

By Hayden Henry
Dec. 21, 2017 at 4:09 p.m.

Keaontay Ingram runs the ball for Carthage, on Friday October 13, 2017, during their game with Kilgore in Bulldog Stadium. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

CARTHAGE — In Carthage, whether it's good or bad, it's a next snap, next play mentality.

That approach goes season-to-season as well for the Bulldogs.

"Last year, and we walked about it at the beginning of this season, that group just kept getting better and better each week and they overachieved," Carthage head coach Scott Surratt said. "That's been our goal each and every week: to get better.

"We told them that if we keep going that, then we have the chance to overachieve."

What Carthage looks to achieve Friday is capping a dominant run back to the state championship, looking for state title No. 6 in the past decade and a chance to go back-to-back as No. 1 in the state.

"From Week 1 to Week 16, there's been major improvements," running back and Texas commit Keaontay Ingram said. "At the beginning of the season, Coach Surratt told us that we're not ready yet but we're getting there.

"We're officially here and it's a matter of embracing the opportunity and challenge that's in front of us."

History plays a part in Carthage but it doesn't define what comes next. The Bulldogs know that.

"You dream about this moment," tight end Callahan Baldree said. "It's here now and it's a matter of what we can do with it."

Here's a look at the Class 4A, Division I state championship:

CARTHAGE (15-0) VS. KENNEDALE (14-1)

Time: 11 a.m., today

Stadium: AT&T Stadium, Arlington

Coaches

Carthage: Scott Surratt (11th season, 133-27)

Kennedale: Richard Barrett (17th season at Kennedale, 167-47)

How they got here:

Carthage: Def. Huffman Hargrave (46-10), Brazosport (45-21), Silsbee (64-36), Henderson (35-0) and Waco La Vega (46-39)

Kennedale: Def. Carrollton Ranchview (59-14), Van (42-28), Midlothian Heritage (45-43), Kaufman (63-36) and Stephenville (54-28)

State appearances

Carthage: 7

Kennedale: 1

Follow the game: Look for updates throughout the game on Twitter (@hayden_h, @GPigskinprof and @lnjsports), on Facebook (Facebook.comm/news-journal and Facebook.com/ETvarsity) and at etvarsity.com and news-journal.com

WHEN CARTHAGE HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Carthage: OL Jessie Wayne Pierce … OL Callam Barber … OL JT Romero … OL Kevion Booty … OL Nate Brittenham … TE Callahan Baldree … RB Keaontay Ingram (221 carries, 2,164 yards, 34 TDs; 23 catches, 284 yards, 2 TDs) … QB Gunner Capps (201-320-7, 3,448 yards, 45 TDs) … WR Dee Bowens (57 catches, 1,270 yards, 22 TDs) … WR Dewaylon Ingram (56 catches, 1,021 yards, 15 TDs) … ATH Mekhi Colbert (45 catches, 695 yards, 5 TDs; 18 carries, 239 yards, 4 TDs) … K Alberto Sigala

Kennedale: DL Larry Brooks (154 tackles, 15 TFL, 4 INTs, 4 FR) … LB Ector Rivera (148 tackles, 21 TFL, 6 sacks) … LB Jalen Myers (90 tackles, 18 TFL, 8 sacks) … DB JD Coffey (88 tackles, 11 TFL, 6 INTs, 4 PBU) … DL Avion Jenkins (85 tackles, 23 TFL, 7 sacks, 3 FF) … DL Mayfield Hayes (63 tackles, 23 TFL, 2 FF) … DL Ricardo Pena (18 TFL) … DB Devan Mason (5 INTs, 6 PBU, 3 FR, FF)

Keys: Stay versatile and move the sticks. Carthage is as balanced as they come, averaging 214 rushing and 234 passing yards per game. Establishing the run with Ingram will obviously allow Capps to find his weapons in Bowens and Dewaylon Ingram against a Wildcat defense that has 191 tackles for loss and 42 sacks this season. To do that, a big game from the Carthage offensive line is crucial. While balanced, Carthage has opened the playbook of late with Colbert seeing time in the wildcat and LB Brown seeing some carries as well. Kennedale's defense is allowing 103 rushing and 155 passing yards overall this season. In the postseason, the Wildcats are allowing just over three yards per carry. Of the 1,855 yards allowed by Kennedale in the postseason, 1,294 have come through the air so if Capps isprovided the time, look for Carthage's passing game to get going. With Kennedale's ground-and-pound offense, possessions will be limited so ball security will be of utmost importance for the Bulldogs, who had four turnovers a week ago against La Vega.

He said it: "They're big on the defensive line so we've got to handle their size up front. They've got some physical linebackers and some long, long safeties and a long corner. They're very tall. It's going to be a challenge but we've got to execute in every phase, move the sticks and not turn the ball over." – Surratt

WHEN KENNEDALE HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Carthage: LB Mykel Gates (156 tackles, 20 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 FR, FF, INT) … LB Ahmad Brown (153 tackles, 22 TFL, 3 FF, FR, 4 sacks) … LB Jose DeJulian (137 tackles, 18 TFL, 3 sacks, 7 PBU, 3 FF, 2 FR) … DL Montario Wilson (77 tackles, 14 TFL, 4 FF, 5 sacks, INT) … DL Quinton Owens (78 tackles, 10 TFL, 6 sacks) … DL Felipe Ponce (61 tackles, 7 TFL, 5 sacks) … DL Darrian Ingram (55 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) … DB Jacorey Ware (8 INTs, 6 PBU) … DB Mehki Colbert (7 INTs, 6 PBU) … DB Ashton Hicks (8 PBU, INT)

Kennedale: RB Jaden Knowles (180 carries, 2,200 yards, 34 TDs) … RB De'shaun Kirven (205 carries, 2,191 yards, 41 TDs) … QB Evan Jowers (53-88-3, 1,005 yards, 11 TDs; 96 carries, 686 yards, 8 TDs) … WR Jaden Smith (19 catches, 466 yards, 6 TDs)

Keys: Focus and adjust. Kennedale brings about a new and fresh challenge to the Bulldog defense with its Wing-T offense, a system the Wildcats have used to churn out 399 rushing yards per game and an at an overall mark of nearly 10 yards per carry. Carthage's defense, meanwhile, is holding opponents to 3.5 yards per carry and has forced 16 fumbles on the season. This matchup is physicality both ways so weathering the storm in the trenches will be crucial for Carthage so that the second-level of its defense can make the plays they have all year.

He said it: "We're going to have to adjust to the speed of what they do the first few series because you can't emulate that Wing-T offense in practice. We've shown the scout team the film and they've worked their tails off to give us the best look they can but you can't show them that speed. We've got to adjust to the speed and if we can align properly, go down hill and tackle those backs and make them throw the football. If we're thinking too much, our eyes are everywhere and we're not very disciplined, we're going to be in trouble. If our eyes and reactions are right and we're heading down hill, then we'll be OK." — Surratt

Did you know: Surratt is 45-5 in the playoffs as Carthage's head coach and the Bulldogs are looking for their sixth state title since 2008 … Kennedale HC Barrett is in his 22nd season as a head coach and 39th season in the coaching profession … Kenndale averages 466 yards (67 passing/399 rushing) and 54 points per game … The Wildcats allow an average of 258 yards (155 passing/103 rushing) and 18points per game … Carthage averages 447 yards (234 passing/213 rushing) and 46 points per game … The Bulldogs allow 277 yards (131 passing/146 rushing) and 20 points per game

Twitter-sized preview: Both of these offenses do what they do exceptionally well so expect a physical and crucial game both team's defenses. Mistakes are magnified on this stage and will be the difference between No. 6 for Carthage or No. 1 for Kennedale.

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