CARTHAGE — Francis Howell had little resistance on its way to the Class 5 semifinals, but containing top-ranked Carthage was supposed to be an arduous task.
The St. Charles school handed the Tigers a 35-13 loss on the rain-soaked turf of David Haffner Stadium on Saturday, the Vikings' 14th blowout win in as many tries.
Francis Howell (14-0), which faces Fort Osage in next week's Class 5 state title game in Columbia, knew that if it wanted to hand Carthage (11-2) a rare lopsided loss, it would have to force the Tigers into even rarer mistakes.
Carthage's six turnovers were the biggest oddity of the gray and gloomy afternoon.
Second-ranked Francis Howell turned three of those turnovers into touchdowns and kept Carthage at arm's length throughout the contest.
Air Force-bound senior running back Luke Gall pointed to the uncharacteristic giveaways and Francis Howell's size and strength on the offensive and defensive lines.
"Turnovers hurt us, and (Francis Howell) was just better up front," said Gall, who accounted for both of his team's touchdowns.
Vikings running back Kendall Gurley scored on a 38-yard touchdown on the game's opening drive. A Gall fumble in deep Carthage territory swiftly gave the visitors another crack at the end zone, as Gurley scored again on a 15-yard reverse.
The bleeding didn't stop for Carthage.
After Carthage quarterback Cooper Jadwin was picked off early in the second quarter, Francis Howell quarterback Adam Shipman took advantage of the possession with an 11-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-7 tight end Brett Norfleet.
Norfleet, who is committed to Mizzou for football and baseball, said he still didn't feel comfortable with an early 21-0 lead.
"It was good to have that hot start, but against a good like that, you can't get complacent," Norfleet said.
Gall, who was held mostly in check due to a sizable Vikings defensive front that includes Norfleet at defensive end, answered with a 55-yard touchdown run to get the Tigers on the board before halftime.
Carthage came up empty on its opening drive of the second half before Francis Howell running back Brady Hultman scored the first of his two short touchdown runs, putting Carthage in another three-score deficit.
Momentum appeared to shift in Carthage's direction, though, after Jadwin hit Hudson Moore on a 65-yard connection that set up a short Gall touchdown to make it a 28-13 contest.
Carthage came up with a stop on the subsequent Vikings' possession. The Tigers proceeded to drive down the field to try and cut Francis Howell's lead to a touchdown, but Jadwin was intercepted again.
"(Francis Howell) forced us to do some other things, rather than the things we're used to like running the football," Carthage coach Jon Guidie said. "And then we made some mistakes and turned the ball over way too much."
Norfleet said containing the usual ground attack of Gall and Jadwin, which accounted for well over 3,000 rushing yards this season, was key.
"When you get a team like Carthage to go away from what they do (and pass), good things can happen," Norfleet said.
The Vikings, who have several Division I recruits, averaged 49.4 points heading into Saturday. Their offensive output against Carthage was relatively modest.
"I thought our defense played pretty well," said Gall, who is also an all-state linebacker. "But we just weren't able to get it going on offense."
Carthage, which won a state title in 2019, appeared in its fourth semifinal in six seasons.
Francis Howell qualified for the state quarterfinals a season ago in Class 6.
Gall, who had nearly 2,000 rushing yards in his senior season, was disappointed in the outcome but kept things in perspective.
Gall, a standout since his freshman season, had a 39-4 record throughout his decorated career.
"We had a great season. It wasn't the way we wanted to finish," Gall said. "But I loved playing every second with my brothers and that's something I'll never forget."
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Carthage falls to Francis Howell in Class 5 state semifinals