An improved Carthage defense and the same old Carthage offense was the perfect combination for the Tigers Thursday night in a 41-28 victory at K.E. Baker Stadium against visiting Carl Junction.

An improved Carthage defense and the same old Carthage offense was the perfect combination for the Tigers Thursday night in a 41-28 victory at K.E. Baker Stadium against visiting Carl Junction.

The Tigers, playing a day early to avoid heavy rain forecast for Friday, scored on their first offensive play of the game and never trailed while improving to 2-0 on the season.

Seth Beckner's 69-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage gave Carthage a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point, and the Tigers made it 13-0 on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Musser to Beckner with 8:32 left in the first half.

Carl Junction got the ball at its own 45-yard-line at that point, and the Bulldogs scored seven plays later on a five-yard touchdown run, making it 13-7 Carthage.

Beckner and the Tigers answered, though, as the senior scored from five yards out at the 3:50 mark, and Gabe Franklin passed to Tyler Ralston for the two-point conversion, giving the Tigers a 21-7 advantage.

Carl Junction closed the gap to a touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half when Dustin Satterlee connected with Matt Magee for a 15-yard touchdown, but Carthage got the ball back at its own 38 with 41 seconds remaining, which was plenty of time for the Tigers offense. Musser passed to EJ Morgan on first down for a big gain to the Carl Junction 26, and Beckner took a screen pass and scored the following play, giving the Tigers a 27-14 lead at the half.

The Bulldogs made things interesting late in the third quarter, moving the ball 64 yards in 11 plays and scoring when Satterlee passed to Connor Rohmiller for a 32-yard touchdown with 13 seconds on the clock. That cut the Carthage lead to six points, 27-21, and the Tigers started their next possession at their own 13-yard-line.

Musser rose to the occasion on first down, passing to Ralston for a big gain to the Carl Junction 37, and five plays later Musser passed to Beckner for an 11-yard touchdown, making the score 33-21.

Franklin ended the next Carl Junction scoring threat. The Bulldogs started at their own 40 and advanced to the Carthage 23 where they faced a third-and-8. Satterlee was sacked by a group of Tigers at the 31, and then Franklin picked off a pass on fourth down.

Beckner added another touchdown, his sixth of the game, on a 16-yard run with 5:10 left in the game to give the Tigers a 20-point lead. Nick Thompson scored from seven yards out for Carl Junction, making it 41-28 with 3:07 left in the game, but the Carthage offense seven plays and ate up the clock for the win.

"We certainly made some improvements on the defensive side," Carthage head coach Jon Guidie said. "We've still got a long way to go, but we knew that going in. Hopefully we can improve each week and be a better team by the end of the season."

Senior Bryan "Bubba" Burns was a big factor for the Tigers' defense, making several solo tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

"The more he gets in shape the more snaps he'll take on that side of the ball for us," Guidie said. "We challenged him this week and told him we needed that and he sure stepped up."

Carthage finished the game with 547 offensive yards on 46 plays. Beckner continued to put up eye-popping numbers, finishing with 293 rushing yards on 23 carries with three touchdowns, and adding four catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns.

Musser completed 9 of 10 passes for 211 yards and three scores. Morgan caught three passes for 57 yards.

"We felt like we could throw the ball better out of our two-back set tonight," Guidie said. "They were kind of crowding the line of scrimmage based on what we did last week with our running game, so we thought we could get two backs and throw it a little bit. We had some success with it, it worked early and we stayed with it.

"A lot of kids stepped up," he said. "On the offensive side, Jordan Dangerfield made some plays for us. Cameron Priester once again took some load off Seth. EJ Morgan made some critical catches on fourth down. Tyler Ralston made a nice catch for us, bringing the momentum back to our side on a deep catch over the middle. Defensively I thought our kids tackled better tonight. Gabe had a good interception there on fourth down."
Carthage will host Webb City at 7 p.m. next Friday.