CARTHAGE Five games into the high school football season, most teams are a little banged up and relying on reserves for key minutes.
The really good teams, such as Carthage, have thrived with second-teamers filling key roles. And with that kind of depth, the Comets have continued to show why they are one of the top challengers for the Section 3 Class A title this season.
With backup running back Josh Capers rushing for 197 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns, Carthage made it five straight wins to start the season with a 41-20 crossover victory over Nottingham on Friday night.
Capers, subbing for the injured Rodrick Groce, helped the Comets roll up 349 yards on the ground and finally wear down the Bulldogs defense with their relentless ground game.
And although the Comets defense didnt play a perfect game, it kept the big-play Nottingham offense under control for the most part.
That left head coach Sam Millich feeling good about the win over the defending Section 3 champions, but knowing that his club still hasnt played its best game.
Weve got some firepower when you see a kid like Josh step up and we dont miss a beat, Millich said. Thats the kind of depth you love because the next kid is always ready to go in and make a contribution.
Groce, who leads the Comets in rushing, went down after just three carries. In came Capers, who ran for 83 yards on 14 carries the rest of the first half, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter .
Capers added 114 more yards in the second half, tacking on a 17-yard TD run and then capping off his night with a 53-yard burst for a score.
Gunner Serota (19 yards), quarterback Bailey Wilkinson (4 yards) and backup fullback Zach Lillie (56 yards) also contributed TD runs for Carthage, which is ranked seventh in the state this week.
Capers, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, said he isnt used to getting that many carries. But my line gave me the room and I just ran as hard as I could, he said. Ive never been on a team this good.
Capers is a transfer from Alaska who arrived the day equipment was handed out. Millich said hes been a really hard worker and has bided his time. Hes not that big, but he hits the hole hard and quickly.
Serotas burst up the middle put Carthage on the board first following a 10-play, 93-yard drive midway through the first quarter.
After Nottinghams TyQuon Hightower snagged a 28-yard scoring pass from Najelick Williams later in the quarter and the PAT put the Bulldogs (1-4) ahead 7-6, Carthage answered quickly. Capers ran the final four yards of a 61-yard drive for a score to open the second quarter.
Wilkinsons 4-yard sweep with just 11.3 seconds left in the half gave Carthage a 21-7 halftime lead after Jordan Olivers PAT.
Nottingham scored on its first possession of the second half as Williams hit Isaiah Carter for an 8-yard score.
But Carthage answered quickly as Wilkinson ran a naked bootleg 21 yards to the Nottingham 17, and Capers went the rest of the way on the next play.
Capers went untouched 53 yards for his third score in the fourth quarter. And Lillie was also untouched as he rambled 56 yards for his first varsity touchdown with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
We havent been 5-0 for awhile, so it feels good, Millich said. But we have a lot of things to fix with Indian River coming to town next week.
Among the areas that concern Millich are: allowing a too much penetration into the backfield on offense, giving up too many cut-back runs on defense, and penalties. The Comets were whistled for 10 penalties for 80 yards Friday.
Those are all correctable things, especially the penalties, Millich said. We need to clean those up or they are going to hurt somewhere down the line.