SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Glendale was seemingly overwhelmed by the Carthage offense throughout the night, and its biggest problem came in the form of a 5-foot-11 running back named Tyler Mueller.
Mueller, a senior standout for the Tigers, gashed the Falcons in the run game for five touchdowns and 288 yards on 22 carries as Carthage rolled to a 64-34 win over Glendale in a frigid and rain-soaked Class 5 quarterfinal on Friday night at Lowe Stadium.
As a team, the Carthage offense amassed 550 yards with 524 coming via the run.
“We wanted to show this is a (Central Ozark Conference) offense,” Mueller said. “It was raining from the start of the game, and we knew we had to come down and just pound the football down their throats.”
The victory advanced Carthage (10-2) to the state semifinals to take on Fort Zumwalt North, a 24-21 victor over Chaminade, next Saturday in O’Fallon. The Tigers are making their third consecutive appearance in the Class 5 semis.
“It’s awesome,” Carthage coach Jon Guidie said. “It’s really gratifying to make it to this far with this team. Sometimes people take it for granted that you make it to this point. We don’t as coaches, and these players don’t. It’s a process you have to go through, and it’s why you get up at 5 a.m. in June, to be playing on nights like this and having a chance to go further.”
Friday’s game lasted more than three hours despite the contest encountering a running clock in the latter half of the fourth quarter. Glendale (6-6) attempted 73 passes, completing 38, and accounted for 594 yards of offense with three turnovers. Falcons quarterback Gavin Watts threw for 540 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We got a couple stops, and we felt like if we could just get (our defense) off the field then we would be OK offensively,” Guidie said. “Our kids stepped up and got a couple of picks to get us the ball back.”
Carthage reached the 35-point lead it needed for a turbo clock with 5:44 remaining when freshman running back Luke Gall bulldozed his way into the end zone to give the Tigers a 64-26 advantage.
Glendale brought the game to its final score on a 24-yard touchdown pass and 2-point conversion as the clock expired.
Carthage scored on its first five drives and generated two takeaways in the first half as it built a 34-12 lead.
Gall accounted for the first takeaway, intercepting a pass on Glendale’s first drive and going 55 yards on the return to set the Carthage offense up at the Falcons’ 25-yard line.
“That was big because we just wanted a stop,” Guidie said. “It set the tone for us defensively. We knew tonight was going to be frustrating because of how Glendale plays. They throw those short passes and they move the chains. But I thought our kids were up to the challenge.”
Three plays after Gall’s pick, junior quarterback Patrick Carlton scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 7-0 with 7:45 left in the first quarter.
Glendale’s next possession resulted in a turnover on downs and was followed by a seven-play, 40-yard scoring drive by Carthage. Carlton found the end zone on a 6-yard carry to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
The Falcons’ offense began to show signs of life late in the first quarter with a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Gavin Watts — one for 46 yards and another for 68 yards — in a two-minute span. Carthage had a touchdown sandwiched between Glendale’s two scoring drives, with Mueller scoring his first touchdown on a 43-yard scamper.
Glendale was held scoreless on its final four drives of the opening half as Carthage added 13 more points to its lead. Mueller accounted for touchdown runs of 47 and 17 yards to push the Tigers’ advantage to 22 points by the 3:37-mark of the second quarter.
Defensive back Marcus Huntley set up Carthage’s final touchdown of the first half with a 40-yard interception return to the Glendale 38.
Mueller recorded his final two touchdowns in the third quarter on runs of 11 and 5 yards.
“(Mueller) had a great night,” Guidie said. “We didn’t throw the ball much tonight. We just wanted to line up and run the football. And that’s Tyler and that’s Pat.”
Carlton, who rushed for three touchdowns and 157 yards, capped the scoring in the third quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run to widen Carthage’s lead to 56-26 by the start of the fourth.