Again, Carthage offered a response, moving to the Spartans' one before Wilkinson scored and then made his own two-point conversion.
So they went to the final period 29-29, and after Richardson got intercepted by Malik Little, the Comets went in front for the first time with Capers scoring on a 17-yard run with 7:05 left. He carried the ball 20 times on the night, earning 192 yards.
The conversion was missed, and the Spartans, trailing for the first time all night, nearly got back even immediately, but Sanchez, on a long run, was stripped of the ball near the goal line, a possible touchdown turning into a Carthage touchback.
ESM's defense held and forced a short punt. Again the Spartans roared down the field, and this time cashed in when Sanchez scored his fourth TD on a 17-yard run with 2:26 left and Diedrickson added the PAT. Sanchez, overall, gained a career-best 210 yards on 22 carries.
One more time, though, Carthage plowed through ESM's defenses. In just two plays, including a 43-yard screen pass to Capers, the Comets moved to the Spartans' 20 before Wilkinson, who rushed for 236 yards on 31 carries, broke loose for the go-ahead TD with a minute to play and throwing a two-point pass to Capers.
Still, that minute was enough time for ESM to turn a long kick return into a desperate final march. It reached the Comets' 25, where on the game's final play Richardson, who was 15-for-26 for 242 yards to that point, threw to the end zone, but Carthage batted it away to end a remarkable contest.
It proved far more conventional at Watertown, where J-D, who reached the sectional finals a year ago, was looking for a return trip to the Dome - but getting it would require beating an Indian River team that toppled the Red Rams 23-7 back on Sept. 12.