CARTHAGE, Mo. — Jerry Reed’s hit song East Bound and Down blared from stadium speakers at David Haffner Stadium as the Carthage football team lined up for its final kickoff on Friday night.
A standing home crowd sang along while Carthage’s cheerleaders danced and its players jumped in unison.
The party had begun.
Aided by a dominant opening quarter as well as a strong finish, Carthage made quite the statement as it rolled to a 42-14 win over rival Webb City on its home field.
The triumph marked the Tigers’ first over the Cardinals since 2016.
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Carthage head coach Jon Guidie said. “I told somebody at the beginning of the year that if character means anything, then this is going to be a pretty special year. The character of these kids is just unbelievable. Every day in practice they show up, they work, they want to learn, they want to be better. It paid off tonight.”
And the start couldn’t have been more ideal for Carthage (4-0).
Webb City (2-2) turned the ball over on each of its first three drives — one turnover on downs and two lost fumbles — and the Tigers took advantage with three straight touchdowns to take a 21-0 lead just 10 minutes into the contest.
The Cardinals (2-2) trimmed the deficit to 14 points two times from there, but the Tigers never really relinquished control. A pair of unanswered Carthage touchdowns in the fourth quarter eventually put the nail in the coffin.
“We felt pretty good about ourselves last week (after a 56-20 win over Republic), but maybe our kids started thinking they were pretty good,” Webb City head coach John Roderique said. “We found out tonight that you got to get to work every week. But yeah, we got out-everything’d tonight.”
In total, the Carthage defense generated four takeaways (two fumble recoveries, two interceptions) and also forced two turnovers on downs.
The final takeaway put the game’s outcome out of question when senior defensive back Cale Patrick hauled in a tipped pass for an interception as Carthage led 35-14 late in the fourth quarter.
“Getting (Webb City) to turn the ball over, that’s a feat in itself,” Guidie said. “They usually play very clean when they play us. Those turnovers were huge.”
The Carthage offense rolled early and often, too. The Tigers dominated the war in the trenches as junior running back Luke Gall recorded touchdowns on runs of 59, 13 and five yards in the first quarter.
Gall, who also made his presence felt at linebacker throughout the night, finished with 214 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
“Gall, I mean, gosh dang,” Roderique said. “That kid played like an All-American tonight.”
“Luke’s name was called all over the place,” Guidie said. “That kid is pretty special.”
And Gall wasn’t the only one making plays with his legs. Senior quarterback Caden Kabance amassed a team-high 235 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
Kabance’s first score of the game came on the first offensive play of the second half when he broke loose for an 83-yard touchdown run.
Webb City quickly responded with a 62-yard touchdown scamper by senior quarterback Cohl Vaden — who had two rushing TDs on the night — to briefly trim the Carthage lead to 28-14 early in the third quarter.
But it was all Carthage from there. The Tigers accounted for 14 straight points in the fourth quarter on touchdown runs by Kabance and Gall while the Cardinals went scoreless on their final four drives.
Carthage erupted for 454 rushing yards on the night.
After a shaky start, the Cardinals found their footing offensively on their fourth drive as they marched 64 yards for a touchdown. Vaden capped the possession with a 45-yard score on the ground to cut the Carthage lead to 21-7 with 11:50 showing in the second quarter.
Carthage threatened to add to the lead right before halftime. But after driving 57 yards to the Webb City 11-yard line, Gall lost a fumble that gave the Cardinals the ball back at their own 9-yard line.
Webb City, which surrendered four turnovers in five drives in the first half, opted to milk the remaining ticks of the second quarter to take the game into its intermission.
Vaden finished with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. He also completed 10 of 19 passes for 96 yards.
Webb City running backs Dupree Jackson and Cade Wilson were limited to 24 and 15 yards, respectively, on the ground.
Carthage hits the road next Friday to take on Branson (2-2) while Webb City plays at Carl Junction (2-2).