CARTHAGE Carthage coach Sam Millich kept calling Bailey Wilkinsons number. And the Comets senior quarterback kept delivering.
Why mess with a good thing?
Wilkinson rushed for 204 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns to spark Carthage to an exciting 18-16 Section 3 Class A National victory over Whitesboro Friday night.
But it wasnt all of the carries or the yards that was the most impressive. With Carthage (2-0 overall, 1-1 league) protecting that two-point lead with 7 1/2 minutes left deep in their own territory, Wilkinson was a one-man wrecking crew.
Wilkinson led the Comets down field and left the Warriors with virtually no time left on the clock.
A 5-foot-10, 160-pound blend of power and speed, Wilkinson carried on 11 consecutive runs during that final Carthage drive, accumulating 70 yards and eating up seven minutes before stalling out on the Whitesboro 4-yard line.
Whitesboro knew what was coming, but still couldnt stop the dynamic Wilkinson.
In the end, the Warriors (0-2, 0-1) were left with only a few desperate plays with no timeouts.
Millichs explanation for repeatedly giving Wilkinson the ball was simple.
He is a senior, hes tough and smart, and he wasnt going to put the ball on the ground, Millich said. And he was having pretty good success, so why try anything else.
Youd think Wilkinson would be dog tired after a Herculean effort. But he said, I think I could have carried a few more times if we needed it. My line was giving me great holes and I was just running to the open spaces.
Wilkinson ran mainly behind center Rob Flint, 290-pound Aaron Reynolds and 260-pound Trevor Gibbons.
We just kept pushing ahead knowing Bailey was going to get his yards, Gibbons said. Im not surprised we kept giving him the ball because he was really running hard tonight.
However, the game started out miserably for the Comets.
Josh Yelvington fumbled a Whitesboro punt deep in his own territory, and Wilkinson fumbled the snap into the end zone two plays later, with Whitesboro falling on it for a safety.
That was all my fault, Wilkinson said. I knew I had to make up for it, but that we still had a lot of time.
Yelvington and Wilkinson made amends by hooking up for a 24-yard touchdown pass to put Carthage ahead 6-2 later in the opening quarter.
That was a good response to a bad start, Millich said. I thought we could move the ball. We just needed to be patient and execute our offense.
Wilkinson added a 1-yard TD run early in the second quarter to put Carthage on top 12-2. But Whitesboros Vin Cotrupe sped 60 yards untouched with the ensuing kickoff to bring the Warriors back to within 12-9 with the extra point.
Wilkinson answered with a 38-yard scamper on a keeper up the middle, and Carthage held that 18-9 lead at halftime.
Whitesboros lone long drive of the game, a 15-play, 80-yard march on its first third-quarter possession, finished with a 15-yard TD run by Mike DiVaccaro and a PAT to cut the Carthage lead to 18-16.
The Carthage defense then stood tall, forcing a punt on the Warriors next possession, giving Wilkinson and Co. a chance to salt the game away.
The defense did well for the most part, Millich said. Allowing just that one touchdown to a team of that calibre is pretty good.
As for Wilkinsons performance, Millich said its what he expects from a senior leader.
Baileys a lot tougher and quicker than people think, Millich said. And he has knack for making people miss. I could have probably called a few different plays at the end, but why take a chance when he was still going strong and their defense was getting tired chasing him.