A three-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Franklin to D’Angelo Poole gave Carthage a comfortable 27-7 lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter Friday night.
When the quarter was over, the game was tied at 33.
Carthage did enough in the final 12 minutes to earn the win though, topping visiting Seneca 40-33 at K.E. Baker Stadium in the first game of the season.
Carthage led 7-0 after the first quarter and 20-7 at the half, and it looked like this game would be no repeat of last year’s thrilling shootout at Seneca, when Carthage came away with a 61-47 win.
And for the first half of the third quarter, it looked like Carthage might run away with it.
Seneca punted on its first possession, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 30. Completions to EJ Morgan and Jesse Martini set up a first down at the 42, then Morgan caught a pass to the Seneca 47-yard-line. Franklin rushed for four yards, then passed to Morgan for six yards, but the big play came on a Franklin-to-Morgan pass to the Seneca 7. Three plays later, Franklin passed to Poole for a touchdown, and Keith Guest’s PAT gave the Tigers a 20-point lead.
On first down from its own 28, Seneca quarterback Payton Rawlins completed a pass all the way to the Carthage 25, and two plays later threw a 25-yard touchdown to pull the Indians to within 14 points, 27-13.
Carthage took over at its own 34 and Cameron Priester rushed to the Seneca 48, but the Tigers fumbled on their next play, giving the Indians the ball at their own 48. After a four-yard rush, Rawlins then completed a 52-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-20 with 3:23 left in the third.
Carthage responded with a score of its own, moving 65 yards in 1:27 and scoring when Kennan Harrison caught a 32-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was blocked, and Carthage led 33-20.
Seneca came right back. Rawlins threw a 60-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining to pull within 33-26.
Carthage then fumbled the kick return, and the Indians took over at the Carthage 22 with 12 seconds left. After an incompletion and a holding penalty, Rawlins threw a 33-yard touchdown pass as time expired, and the teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 33.
Carthage punted on its first possession of the fourth, and Seneca then moved as far as the Carthage 33 before three-straight incompletions, including one on fourth down, ended the threat.
That gave the Tigers the ball at their own 33. Poole caught a pass for no gain, then Franklin rushed to the 45. Priester then took a pitch and outraced the defense for the go-ahead score with 7:43 left in the game.
Guest’s PAT made it 40-33.
“We had a nice drive going and then Priester sprung the big run,” Carthage head coach Jon Guidie said. “They stayed poised and didn’t give up and didn’t hang their heads. They knew they had to come out and win a football game and they did.”
Seneca got as close as the Carthage 25 on its next drive before failing to convert on fourth down, but the Tigers fumbled again with a minute left in the game, giving the Indians the ball at their own 28. Two pass incompletions, a sack and another incompletion ended the game.
The Carthage offense tallied 533 total yards, but fumbled three times. Franklin shined in the passing game, completing 22 of 26 passes for 297 yards and four scores. Morgan caught nine passes for 109 yards, Ralston Schramm had one reception for 46 yards, Tyler Ralston had three catches for 52 yards, Harrison made two catches for 39, Poole had four for 19 and Martini had three catches for 32.
Preister led the Carthage rushing attack, with 121 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Franklin rushed 16 times for 77 yards, and Harrison had seven rushes for 40.
“I think we were pretty balanced,” Guidie said. “I thought we were very opportunistic offensively. We did a good job of taking advantage of what they were giving us.”
The Carthage defense, meanwhile, allowed 403 yards, with 349 coming through the air. The big quarter was the third, when Rawlins completed seven passes for 226 yards and four scores.
“We were certainly better in the first half,” Guidie said. “We made some mistakes in the second half. We turned the ball over three times and put our defense in those situations. It wasn’t all them, but certainly we have some areas to clean up on the defensive side.”