STORY BY: TIM SCHNETTLER
CORSICANA — The Carthage Bulldogs had been hailed as one of the best teams in Class 3A and Friday night the Navasota Rattlers found out why.
Carthage rolled up 519 yards of offense and limited the Rattlers to 263 en route to a 44-14 victory in the area round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs at Corsicana’s Tiger Stadium.
The victory improved the Bulldogs record to 11-1 on the season and moved them into the regional round where they will face either Silsbee or Stafford. Meanwhile the Rattlers, who were the defending Class 3A Division II State Champions, saw their season end with a 10-2 record.
“There is no doubt the better team won tonight,” Rattler head coach Lee Fedora said. “We didn’t do very good offensively and we didn’t do very good defensively. We got beat by a better team tonight.”
The teams started fast with both teams scoring on their first possession, but from that point on the Bulldogs took control and seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted to do against the Rattlers.
Time and time again the Rattlers had chances on defense to get themselves off the field but they were unable to do so as the Bulldogs were 7-of-9 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth.
“That was what was disappointing,” Fedora said. We had them in some big third downs and we couldn’t stop them. We gave up too many big plays.”
Carthage put the first points of the game on the board when the Bulldogs took the opening kick and marched 75 yards in 14 plays with quarterback Blake Bogenschutz capping the drive with a 2-yard run.
The Rattlers didn’t need long to answer — 56 seconds to be exact — as they went 73 yards in just three plays. Tailback Derrion Randle, who finished with 11 carries for 105 yards, accounted for all of the yards, including the final 46 that ended in the touchdown.
Carthage upped its lead with a field goal and the Rattlers tried to answer, driving into Bulldog territory. Penalties and a couple of sacks short-circuited the drive and the Rattlers were forced to punt.
That is when the Bulldogs put up one of the biggest plays on the night. After taking over at its own 16, a bad snap and a penalty had Carthage backed up to its 3-yard line. Undaunted, Bogenschutz dropped back into his own end zone and hit Tee Goree with a pass.
Goree, who came into the night with 22 touchdown receptions, hauled in the pass, broke free down the sideline and outraced the Navasota defense for a 97-yard touchdown with 3:50 left in the first half.
“We had a busted coverage,” Fedora said. You give up a play like that and all the momentum continues to change. We had some miscues in our secondary and they made a big play.”
It was all downhill from there as the Bulldogs added another touchdown before the half after blocking a Rattler punt and taking over at the Rattlers’ 25-yard line.
Bogenschutz, who had three rushing touchdowns on the night, pushed the Bulldog lead to 24-7 when he scored on a 12-yard run, sending Carthage into the halftime with a big cushion.
The Rattlers tried to get back into the game taking the second-half kick and getting to the Carthage 3-yard line. Again, however, they self-destructed and came up empty. First, a bad snap cost them 10 yards and then two incomplete passes made it fourth-and-goal from the 13.
Shelton Eppler tried to connect with Tren’Davion Dickson in the end zone, but the pass was picked off, turning the Rattlers away empty-handed.
Carthage added two more scores before the Rattlers got their final score of the night on a 22-yard shovel pass to senior Hunter Sparkman as the final seconds in the Rattlers season ticked off the clock.