By Rick Dunaway
The Joplin Globe
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Carthage running back Cameron Priester didn't see anything beautiful about Thursday night's Class 4 District 4 football game except the final score.
The Tigers scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to erase a brief deficit and held on for a 48-40 victory against Marshfield in the playoff opener.
The victory thrusts No. 3 seed Carthage (8-2) into a second-round test at No. 2 Hillcrest on Wednesday night.
“We had to really fight to get this one,” said Priester, who rambled 64 yards for one touchdown and fashioned several other breakaway runs to help the Tigers. “It was really, really ugly, but we did it, so we get another week to clean things up.”
Priester and flanker Jordan Dangerfield took a larger share of the offensive workload normally handled by feature back Seth Beckner, who still managed touchdown runs of 13, 2, 9 and 57 yards en route to a game-high 208 yards.
Dangerfield scored from 5 and 13 yards out, and he had his hands full as cornerback on defense with Marshfield quarterback Blayne Armstrong. Armstrong, a junior who is already gathering some attention from Division I colleges, threw the ball 47 times in the Blue Jays' pass-happy spread offense. Armstrong finished with 249 yards and had touchdowns of 53 yards to Logan Findley and 19 yards to Willie Totten.
Carthage took a 20-7 first-quarter lead but stumbled in the second quarter as a spate of penalties and miscues slowed the Tigers. An interception by Marshfield's Jon Bledsoe of a Jordan Musser pass also set up a short field that running back Dillon Harms exploited into the first of his three touchdown runs in the game.
“We found a way to win, and I guess in the playoffs that's the bottom line,” Carthage coach Jon Guidie said. “We've got to regroup, go back and hit it again. But there's no excuse for the amount of penalties we had.”
Carthage took a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter, but the Blue Jays kept charging back. Then with 7 minutes, 24 seconds left in the third quarter, Harms logged a 12-yard touchdown run, and Harrison Jones' extra-point kick gave the Blue Jays a 27-26 advantage.
But that lead lasted only 15 seconds, as Jones' ensuing squib kick was picked up by Derrick Moore, who returned it to the 9-yard line, from where Beckner punched it in.
Beckner and Priester added touchdowns after that to give Carthage a 48-27 lead it would never relinquish.
Guidie was pleased to see other offensive skill players grab some of the spotlight, mentioning Dangerfield in particular.
"It's good we can get away from Seth sometimes," Guidie said.
“Teams are keying heavily on him like they were tonight. You have to have some other options, and we had some tonight."
Marshfield first-year coach Nick Codutti was pleased with his team's performance.
“Our kids came in with nothing to lose,” Codutti said. “We didn't hold anything back. At one point we were 36-point underdogs, so I'm proud of them.”
Codutti said Harms, who was injured at the start of the season, was still only about 80 percent Thursday night, but he contributed to his team's later passing success.
“He can run the football, and when he needed to run, he ran and he carried the team for probably a good quarter and a half to open some throwing lanes for us,” Codutti said.
“Then Blayne took over after that.”