Bulldogs hold off Graham for 2nd straight title

Posted By Coleman Swierc

DALLAS, TEXAS (Longview News Journal) - In a game that saw two Carthage Bulldogs set single-season school offensive records, the Bulldogs' defensive stalwart made perhaps the most momentous play on virtually one leg to secure Carthage's second consecutive state championship.

Senior defensive tackle DeShun Williams stood up Graham's Dylan Fulford at the 4-yard line on a two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Steers a lead with 1:22 left as Williams dragged Fulford to the ground to preserve a 13-12 Bulldog win in the Class 3A Division II state championship at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium.begintext

Carthage junior wideout Jalen Claiborne covered Graham's ensuing onside-kick attempt to seal the win, which is the Bulldogs' 29th straight and gives them a 39-5 record in three seasons under head coach Scott Surratt.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Surratt said. "You've got to give all the credit to our players and our assistant coaches."

The win gives Carthage a 16-0 record for the first time in school history, as well as its fourth team sport state championship in the past 4 1/2 years (two baseball, two football). Carthage is now 2-for-3 in football state-title appearances, winning 3A Division II crowns in 2008 (14-2) and 2009 and finishing as a 15-1 4A runner-up in 1991.

Williams twisted his right knee with 8:37 left in the first half. He played the entire second half with a brace, but made the tackle on Graham's potential go-ahead two-point try after Cameron Bailey's one-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to one point.

"We had to get the stop to win the game," Williams said. "They tried to cut me and I fought off the cut block, and he ran right into me."

Williams did not allow a knee injury to force him to finish his high school career on the sideline.

"I was gonna play," Williams insisted. "I was gonna play. It was still hurting a little bit, but I was all right."

Recovering the onside kick capped a career day for Claiborne, who caught eight passes for 157 yards, including a 31-yard, first-quarter touchdown. Claiborne broke an 18-year-old single-season receiving yardage school record held by Anthony Pope (951), finishing 2009 with 1,046 yards to become the first 1,000-yard receiver in Carthage history.

"(Winning back-to-back championships) is an indescribable feeling," Claiborne said. "I just thank God for it."

The individual feat paled in comparison to the Bulldogs' victory, Claiborne emphasized.

"It wouldn't have mattered if I had zero catches for zero yards, as long as we come out on top," Claiborne said. "I was hoping they (kicked the onside kick) to me because I wanted to end the game."

Following Claiborne's onside-kick recovery, the Bulldogs took a knee three times before taking a delay penalty on fourth-and-16 with three seconds remaining. Quarterback Anthony Morgan took the snap and ran backwards for a 10-yard loss to run out the clock and prevent Graham from getting one last shot.

Carthage outgained Graham 291-101 in the first half, but two red-zone interceptions limited the Bulldogs to a 13-0 halftime lead. Graham fought back in the second half as Carthage's red-zone offense finished 2-for-6 with two interceptions and two turnovers on downs, including a fourth-and-goal stop at the Graham 1 on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, Carthage junior quarterback Morgan completed 13 of 24 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and two picks, breaking Si'Darius Blackshire's 2008 passing yardage record of 2,735. Morgan finished 2009 with 2,900 yards, 41 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

Carthage senior tailback O'Bryan Washington ran 18 times for 128 yards and caught a 28-yard pass, concluding a solid 2009 campaign with 1,823 rushing yards.

Carthage held Graham quarterback Case McCoy to 55 yards on 2-for-10 passing in the first half. McCoy, who is a Texas commit and the younger brother of Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy, finished 10-for-21 for only 128 yards, one touchdown and an interception by sophomore safety Edward Pope on fourth-and-goal from the Carthage 8 that turned the Steers away on their second half-opening drive.

Graham outgained Carthage 216-53 in the second half.

Francisco Monreal's PAT following Claiborne's first-quarter score proved to be the difference in the game. Gary Nutt added a 15-yard reverse touchdown aided by Pope's pancake block of Graham's Spencer Sims for a 13-0 Bulldog lead with 3:13 remaining in the first half.

Graham staged a 13-play, 99-yard drive capped by McCoy's six-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Hiser with 6:25 remaining in the game to cut Carthage's lead to 13-6 as the extra point knuckled short and right. The drive was the first sign that Graham's offense could go the length of the field on Carthage.

After forcing a 20-yard Carthage punt deep in the Bulldogs' own territory, Graham covered 22 yards in three plays before a one-yard McCoy run on third-and-1 from the Bulldog 2 gave the Steers a first down. Bailey, who rushed for 102 yards on 19 carries, dove on top of the pile on the next play, but landed on his feet and scurried around the left side for the touchdown and a 13-12 score.

Graham lined up in normal PAT formation, but shifted pre-snap, putting Fulford in the gun with two tight ends to the left side. Fulford took the snap and was quickly met by Williams, who wrangled him to the ground for a two-yard loss and preservation of Carthage's one-point lead with 1:22 remaining.

"We could sit here and talk all night about DeShun," Surratt said. "He's just a great player. He was one-legged all night, which hurt us a little bit in the second half, but he made the big play on a banged-up knee. He's just a great player."

Carthage's Clayton Moore recovered a first-quarter fumbled kickoff, while defensive tackle Lovis Hall had two tackles for loss. Linebacker Kendall Thompson had a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Pope, Darayvious Allison and Trevor Murphy each had a tackle for loss as well, while Cortlyn Ware broke up a pass. Trevor Murphy caught two passes for 14 yards to give him 40 catches on the year.

Kyler Scheriger and Hubbell Allen had Graham's two interceptions. Garrett Spears led Graham with five catches for 65 yards.