It was Senior Night at David Haffner Stadium, and Patrick Carlton's ears were apparently burning.
The senior quarterback and reigning Class 5 Offensive Player of the Year accounted for 263 yards of offense and five touchdowns to aid the Tigers in a 42-7 home win over Neosho in a Central Ozark Conference tilt on Friday night in Carthage.
The triumph improved Carthage's season record to 3-0, and it came in the absence of sophomore running back Luke Gall, who rushed for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in the Tigers' first two games.
"Luke was a little banged up and we thought it was best to hold him out," Carthage coach Jon Guidie said. "But Patrick stepped up in his absence and played really well again. He was really solid with both the pass and the run ... and he was once again a difference-maker for us offensively."
Carthage built a 28-0 lead in the first half thanks to four rushing touchdowns by Carlton.
The start of the game saw both teams exchange scoreless possessions before the Tigers got on the board with a six-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Carlton.
The Tigers went on to score three more touchdowns in the second quarter on drives that went for 63, 62 and 17 yards. Carlton accounted for the scores on runs of 4, 2 and 2 yards.
Defensively, Carthage picked up right where it left off the week before when it shut down Carl Junction in the second half to complete a 21-20 comeback victory. Of Neosho's five possessions in the first half, four ended on punts and one ended on a lost fumble.
"We had some new faces on the defensive side, but I thought we did a really good job with our first-down defense in the first half," Guidie said. "With Neosho's style of offense, you have to be good on first down because you don't want to give them second-and-short, third-and-short opportunities."
Neosho found a silver lining out of halftime when it methodically marched 72 yards in 18 plays to record its first score of the season. Running back Talon Mitchell found paydirt on a third down-and-goal play when he bounced a run to the outside for an eight-yard touchdown, briefly trimming the Carthage lead to 28-7.
The Wildcats' scoring drive milked nearly 10 minutes off the clock in the third quarter.
However, it took Carlton and the Carthage offense just three plays to respond. After back-to-back nine-yard runs, Carlton connected with receiver Hudson Moore on a fly route for a 45-yard touchdown pass that pushed the Tigers' advantage to 35-7.
"That was big," Guidie said. "We obviously wanted to get a stop coming out of halftime, but we responded right away and didn't give them a chance to keep feeding off any momentum."
Senior running back Ashton Lancaster applied the finishing touches for Carthage with a two-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
Carlton went 6-for-7 passing for 198 yards, and he also rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries. Tight end Rylee Barker was the recipient of three passes and totaled 65 yards. The Tigers totaled 346 offnesive yards.
"(Barker) is a good player who nobody has really heard about," Guidie said. "He does a great job for us with his blocking, and you saw tonight that he's more than able to catch and run with the football. He's just a good athlete who does a lot of good things for us."
For Neosho, which tallied 160 offensive yards, Mitchell led the ground attack with 69 yards on 23 carries while Drayke Perry recorded 48 yards on 11 attempts. Quarterback Logan Whetzell completed 3-of-4 passes for 20 yards.