Sanders, Carthage Streich for 69 against high-powered Nevada
By Joe Warren
NEVADA, Mo. -- The Carthage Tigers had six touchdowns on only six offensive plays in the first quarter as they jumped out to a gargantuan lead and held off a furious Nevada rally to win Friday, 69-25.
Carthage, ranked sixth in the state in Class 4, scored on the first play of the drive in four of their first five possessions (they needed two plays to score on the fifth), as they rode the legs of speedy Caleb Sanders and a bevy of Nevada mistakes to a 41-6 lead before the hosts even knew what hit them.
On a night when former NHS athlete and Carthage coach Ed Streich was inducted into the NHS Athletics Hall of Fame, Nevada committed three turnovers and had two punts blocked in the first period alone, and Sanders had three scores and 125 yards rushing on only four carries before the teams had even changed direction on the field.
Nevada wasn't completely inept in the first 12 minutes, scoring after an 80-yard drive to make it 21-6, then adding another score with 23 seconds left in the first.
As if the period wasn't bizarre enough, after Nevada's second touchdown, Ronnie Herda drop-kicked the extra point to make it 41-13. Nobody in attendance (not even Kelly Bradham) could remember the last time they had seen a drop-kick in a high school football game.
"I think it's the longest quarter I've ever been in in my coaching career," Nevada head coach John Skeans said.
In the second quarter Nevada threatened to make a game of it, taking advantage of a pair of Carthage turnovers to close the gap to 41-25 thanks to a pair of Herda touchdown passes. Nevada then got the ball on another Carthage miscue, taking over at midfield, but they went backwards and eventually the visitors took over on the Nevada 18 and they scored five plays later to go back up by 23.
Nevada drove right back down field again, getting a 60-yard end-around pass from Colby Shepherd to Dan Lovinger down to the Carthage six, but Herda was stopped at the one on a scramble as time expired in the half.
The second half was all Carthage as they started to chew on the clock, pacing a seven play drive that ate 3:14 before scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Sanders, his fifth of the game, to make the score 55-25 and take the air out of Nevada's sails.
Sanders eventually finished with 184 yards on 16 carries, including five rushing touchdowns. But the most exciting play of the game may have been his lone touchdown reception, which came on a screen pass to the left, that ended up down the right sideline for a 90-yard score. That put Carthage up 62-25 and began the running clock with six minutes left in the third period.
The final game stats would finish as awkward as the game started. Nevada actually outgained Carthage in total offense, 411-385, despite being on the wrong end of a 44-point margin.
Nevada turned the ball over five times total and had three punts blocked (tying for second most in a single game in Missouri state high school football history). That Nevada was able to out-perform Carthage statistically gave Skeans something positive to build on.
"It's a huge boost for us individually and collectively that we can go toe-to-toe with a team of this caliber," Skeans said. "I've never been more proud of a group of young men than I am (Friday)."
Nevada opened the game with a three-and-out. Carthage blocked the punt and recovered at the Nevada 21, setting up their first score, a 21-yard jaunt by Sanders on their first play from scrimmage.
Nevada fumbled on their very next offensive snap, as they tried an end-around pass to Shepherd but the exchange from Herda to the speedy sophomore was fumbled and Carthage recovered on the NHS 39.
Two Sanders runs later and Carthage was up 14-0.
Jake Anderson fumbled on a running play during Nevada's very next play from scrimmage, and Carthage again recovered, this time at the NHS 22. The next play was a 22-yard scoring pass from Trey Derryberry to Stephen Poston for a 21-0 advantage less than three minutes into the game.
When the Tigers finally held on to the ball they went 80 yards in eight plays, taking 2:45 off the clock, capped by a 25-yard scoring toss from Herda to Lovinger. That made the score 21-6 as the two-point conversion failed.
It was 28-6 moments later, as Sanders went 65 yards for his third score immediately after Carthage regained possession.
Nevada had another punt blocked at the end of their next drive, and Carthage set up their next drive at the Nevada five.
Jaryd Gregory ran in for the score on the initial play of the possession, taking a misdirection play around the right end for a 34-6 lead after the extra point was blocked.
Clayton Norwood picked off a Herda pass a few minutes later, returning it 46 yards for another score, and with 3:09 still left in the first period, Carthage led 41-6.
A 52-yard pass from Herda to Shepherd set up Nevada's next score on the ensuing possession. Herda hit Jacob Cherry on a screen pass and he went 17 yards to make it a 41-13 game, and that's how the first period ended.
Carthage muffed the following kickoff and Nevada recovered on the CHS 21. The second play of the period was a 20-yard scoring strike from Herda to Shepherd and Nevada trailed 41-19.
Josh Underwood stripped Carthage's Beau Tommey during the next drive, recovering the fumble after ripping it out of his hands, giving Nevada the ball at their own 45.
Six plays later Herda hit Cherry again, this time from 13 yards out, and that turned out to be the last score of the game for Nevada.
Herda finished the game 14-for-24 passing, with 296 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Shepherd caught six of those passes for 186 yards, while Lovinger had two catches for 85 yards.
Nevada was held to 55 yards on the ground, while Carthage grounded out 254.
The 69 points scored by Carthage were the most they have managed against Nevada in the 83-year-old series. The previous high was 48 in 1991.
Carthage took a knee the final two plays of the game, inside Nevada's 10, despite needing only one point to set the record for most ever scored against the NHS varsity football squad. That distinction is held by Webb City, which scored 70 against the Tigers in 2004.
Nevada (2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Southwest Conference) continues its conference slate next week with a trip to Class 4, No. 1-ranked Webb City. Carthage (3-1, 1-1) will host Paseo.