CARTHAGE — Carthage defeated Indian River, 51-8, Friday night in a Section 3 Class A football clash.
Really. That was the final score.
In week five of the regular season, the state-ranked No. 6 Comets welcomed the No. 4 Warriors to their turf and beat them in all facets of the game for four quarters.
The Comets were confident in their ability to win, but even they weren’t expecting such a rout against the previously unbeaten Warriors.
“I did not, to be honest with you, I really did not (expect this), I expected more of a game,” Carthage running back Fombo Azah said. “But I’m still expecting for them to come back later, meet us in the (Carrier) Dome. They’ll be more prepared and we’ll play an even better football game.”
Azah played a big role as Carthage’s lead running back. He finished with 186 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. His longest one came from 55 yards out and resulted in a touchdown.
Carthage’s offensive performance wasn’t all too different than what it’s been doing this season. Along with Azah, quarterback Nick Cavellier ran for 97 yards and a touchdown and Jalen Jones ran for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Casey Farrell got in on the action as well, hitting a 38-yard field goal on the Comets’ first drive.
But the real difference-maker for the Comets (4-1 overall, 2-0 league) came on the other side of the ball. Coach Jason Coffman’s defense was tasked with limiting an Indian River offense that has averaged 57 points per game. The experience from players such as Azah, Collin Null and Miguel Blunt won out as they limited the Warriors to only one score and a total of 212 rushing yards and just four passing yards. A mid-game adjustment helped Carthage further limit Indian River’s dangerous running game.
“We started in a four (defensive linemen) and we did all right, but then we ended up going to a five so we made sure we had their guys matched up size-wise,” Coffman said.
“They’re big, strong and fast linemen and so are my guys,” Coffman continued. “When we went to five, it offered enough penetration and interference that they couldn’t get to their blocks that they wanted to all the time.”
This forced the Indian River running backs, primarily Guillermo Rosario-Acosta, Gabe Lynch and Anthony Barker, to try and gain ground on the outside, but defensive ends Azah and Blunt were just as strong and continued to drop runners for either short gains or losses.
“We have two really good ends, Fombo and Miguel are really really good,” Coffman said. “You have trouble bouncing it outside on them because they’re going to run you down. That’s certainly one of the biggest strengths of our team.”
Carter Kempney, one of Carthage’s defensive backs, landed the final blow on Indian River when he sacked quarterback Bobby Alexander on an attempted play-action pass play and forced the senior to fumble the ball. The ball kicked around before Kempney slid in to recover it in the end zone resulting in a Comets touchdown.
“On that play it was kind of crazy because everyone was trying to jump on the ball, and right when I got the ball back, I just knew that we put the nail in the coffin,” Kempney said.
The Comets ultimately forced Indian River (4-1, 1-1) to fumble eight times, three of which were recovered by Carthage.
The win gives Carthage sole possession of first place in Section 3 Class A with Whitesboro having lost to Auburn on Friday. While many in the north country look forward to Carthage and Indian River meeting up again in the sectional semifinals, Coffman knows there’s a lot more season left to play.
“We have so much Class A football left, there is so much Class A football left that if we get to (Indian River) again it will be dog fight just like we know it will,” Coffman said. “Hopefully it happens because it would be great for north country football.”