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Carthage football rolls to first victory of season

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A pick-six is extremely rare in football.

Just look at Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

He threw a pick-6 Sunday in the Packers' win over the New England Patriots, and it was only the fourth, yes, fourth, in his 17-year career.

That's four times in more than 5,000 pass attempts.

They simply don't happen very often.

On Saturday, the Carthage football team picked off three passes and returned them for touchdowns in one game.

That usually leads to good results.

The ball-hawking defense flew all over the field, and quarterback Christian Beltran had a career day as the Firebirds cruised to this season's first win, 57-21, at Elmhurst, Ill. in a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin matchup.

Carthage is now 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the CCIW. Elmhurst dropped to 0-4 and 0-3.

The Firebirds were coming off two straight blowout losses at home, including a 45-16 loss to Washington University of St. Louis for Homecoming Sept. 24.

Garrett Warner returned his interception for a touchdown 60 yards to give the Firebirds a 14-7 lead, and Evan Mutterer's 92-yard pick-six and Tre Mitchell's 44-yarder helped Carthage run away from Elmhurst late in the game.

"All did a great job breaking on balls and finishing with the return," Carthage head coach Dustin Hass said Wednesday. "We played a much better game in all three phases. We created a lot of turnovers on defense and moved the ball well on offense. We did a much better job converting in the red zone on offense and a much better job getting off the field on third down on defense."

Elmhurst turned the ball over six times, compared to three for Carthage.

Beltran dazzled through the air, throwing for a career-high 254 yards on 17-for-30 passing and four touchdowns.

Sylvere Campbell, Indian Trail graduate Alex Jarvis, Jordan Wiles and Kyle Williamson all caught touchdowns from Beltran.

"This is the first time since I've been here that we have had three pick-sixes on defense," Hass added. "Our defense did a great job today, which is what we stressed in practice this past week. Christian Beltran showed what he can do today when he has time to throw the football. Beltran did a good job distributing the ball today, going through his reads and progressions. He had time, which led to good throws. Though we still have some work to do, this win was a good step in the right direction."

"College football wins are hard. Any win is a good win."

After Elmhurst scored first, Carthage marched down the field and scored on a one-yard run from Rey Guajardo to tie it at 7-7. Warner's pick-six made it 14-7 to end the first, then Beltran took over.

He threw three touchdowns in a row late in the second quarter to give the Firebirds a comfortable 41-14 cushion at the half.

With Elmhurst in catch-up mode in the second half, Carthage added the two interception returns for touchdowns, plus a 22-yard field goal from Sebastian Haske to end the scoring.

Wiles led Carthage with three catches for 76 yards, and Jarvis added five grabs for 73 yards. 

On the ground, Ian McGee rushed for 84 yards, and Guajardo provided his first rushing touchdown of the season.

Chris DiVito led Carthage in tackles with 10.

Also, John Pettit forced two fumbles and added six tackles.

Carthage is back on the road Saturday at 1 p.m. to face winless North Park, Ill. (0-4, 0-3 CCIW) in Chicago.

"I think we can carry the momentum over," Hass said. "We just need to focus on improving every day."


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