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Carthage quarterback Cooper Jadwin (7) gets past Republic’s Dean Marcum (15) for a long touchdown run during their district championship game on Nov. 11 at CHS. Globe file

And then there were four.

The Carthage football team will make its fourth Final Four appearance of the last six seasons on Saturday when the top-ranked Tigers (11-1) play host to the second-ranked Francis Howell Vikings (12-0) in a Class 5 state semifinal at David Haffner Stadium.

Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. in Carthage.

The Tigers are seeking their second state championship in program history. Their first was claimed in 2019 with a 27-21 overtime win in a title game against Jackson.

Carthage spent part of its Thanksgiving holiday out on the practice field in preparations for Saturday’s heavyweight tilt.

“Anytime you get to practice on Thanksgiving, and we did it a few years ago as well, it’s certainly a really good experience,” Carthage head coach Jon Guidie said. “The kids were excited, families came out to watch. It’s just a special time for everybody and a reward for how well they’ve done this season.”

The Tigers’ next test will be perhaps their most challenging one of the season. Francis Howell not only enters the contest with an unblemished record but has also dominated its opposition throughout the course of the year.

The Vikings are averaging 49.4 points per game while limiting their opponents to 13.9 ppg. They haven’t scored less than 35 points in a contest this season, and their closest game was a 35-19 triumph over Troy Buchanan in Week 5.

“They’re very impressive to watch on film,” Guidie said of the Vikings. “There’s talent everywhere. They have an explosive running back similar to Luke (Gall), and he starts both ways at linebacker and running back. Their quarterback is very talented and a dual-threat kid, and they’ve got tall, lanky receivers that can go get the football. A lot of those kids play both ways, too.”

Francis Howell QB Adam Shipley has thrown for over 1,700 yards as well as 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions. His top target, wide receiver Jude James, has 24 catches for 559 yards and six scores.

Brady Hultman is the Vikings’ workhorse running back, having rushed for 1,059 yards and 20 TDs on 135 carries.

Carthage, coming off a 35-14 win over Lebanon in the state quarterfinals, is averaging 40.9 ppg while holding its opponents to 14.9 ppg.

Gall, a two-way standout and Air Force Academy commit, has rushed for a whopping 1,896 yards and 38 TDs on 232 carries. He also leads the CHS defense with 92 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries at linebacker.

Carthage has another formidable rusher in QB Cooper Jadwin, who’s amassed 1,219 yards and 11 scores on 152 carries. He’s also completed 67 of 123 passes for 1,145 yards and six TDs.

Jadwin missed the second half of last week’s game against Lebanon due to an injury. Clay Kinder filled in for him at QB and logged 81 yards of total offense and a pair of TDs.

Wide receiver Hudson Moore leads the CHS offense in receiving with 38 catches for 591 yards and six TDs. Gall has 13 catches for 326 yards and two scores.

Micah Lindsey has 84 tackles and a team-high 19 tackles for loss for Carthage, while Mason Frisinger has 55 tackles and a team-best 16 pass breakups. Tayvion Bailey leads the way in interceptions with four, and Linder has 73 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

“Just looking at the weather and the rain that’s expected (on Saturday), ball security is probably going to be a factor,” Guidie said. “You have to hold on to the football. We would like to be able to work the clock a little bit and keep their explosive athletes on the sideline.

“They (the Vikings) also have a very good kicker (Josh Deal). He’s one of the best kickers in the state and has made like 81 extra points.

“I don’t know how many touchbacks he has, but I’m betting it’s a lot. ... So special teams could play a factor as far as field position and all of those things.”

The victor on Saturday will advance to the state championship game on Dec. 2 to take on either Fort Osage or Central (Cape Girardeau) in Columbia, Missouri.

Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.

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Jared Porter is the award-winning sports editor for The Joplin Globe. He previously was sports editor in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Reach him at sports@joplinglobe.com.