CENTER – The Center Roughriders seem to have a way of pulling off the impossible, and again, it was the Kilgore High School Bulldogs that paid the price.
The Bulldogs, leading 28-0 at one point in the first half, saw the Riders rally from that deficit and get in front, handing Kilgore a shocking 49-35 loss here Friday night.
The defeat drops Kilgore to 6-3 on the season, and 3-2 in District 9-4A, Division I play, but it by no means keeps Kilgore from the playoffs. Kilgore could’ve clinched the district’s second seed with a win, because the ‘Dogs own the tiebreaker with Henderson. But now, that seeding is still up in the air, headed into the final weekend of the regular season.
Next week, Kilgore hosts Bullard, Henderson hosts Palestine, Center has an open date, and Chapel Hill faces Carthage. Carthage already has the district title locked up; the seeding of the remaining three playoff teams is what’s left to set.
The two halves were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Center was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs in the first half before the comeback began.
After Kilgore’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Roughriders’ first possession of the game, the Ragin’ Red offense took over at midfield and was standing in the end zone five plays later.
KHS quarterback Patrick Jackson found Jaiden Zackery for a 10-yard gain to Center’s 36-yard-line, and then tailback Nick Hooper reeled off a 22-yard run.
Zackery scored on a 19-yard play, but that was called back on an illegal formation. It didn’t matter much, as Briant Mumphrey scored for the Bulldogs on a 24-yard run on the very next play. Elivan Torres’ extra point put Kilgore on the board first, 7-0, with 8:38 left in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged punts – Center twice, thanks to Kilgore’s ‘D’ – and with 5:20 left in the quarter, Kilgore began a possession at midfield, right at the 50. The running game picked up a couple of yards here and there, with a 3-yard pass mixed in to Deiontrae Wheat for good measure, before Hooper finally broke free for a 32-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs’ third touchdown came on an unlikely play. Kilgore’s Zackery looked to be going into the end zone for another score, but officials ruled he lost the ball at Center’s 1-yard-line. Center took over, but fumbled the ball right back, and Kilgore defensive lineman Octavian McKee recovered the ball in the end zone for the score. Torres’ point after made it a three-touchdown lead in Kilgore’s favor.
They’d score one more before Center started its heroics. With 7:42 left in the half, Briant Mumphrey scored on a 1-yard run, after he set the Bulldogs up with a 38-yard run to Center’s 17.
Center quarterback Jayden Hicks dropped back on the Riders’ first play from scrimmage and found Jaterius Evans, just over the middle for a 79-yard touchdown pass. And before Kilgore could get over the shock of that, Hicks and Evans topped that feat on their next drive – a 97-yard bomb that Evans caught at midfield, then outran everyone to the end zone. Kilgore took a 28-13 lead into halftime.
It looked like Kilgore would pull away when they scored on their opening drive of the second half, a 10-yard touchdown by Javorie Hamilton that put them in front, 35-13.
But Hicks connected with Kaleb Hicks for a 19-yard score across the middle on the Riders’ next drive, and then a Kilgore fumble led to another score, a 1-yard run by Hicks. Center trailed just 35-27.
Yet another fumble led to still another Center score, another 1-yard run by Hicks, on the first play of the fourth quarter – the two-point conversion tied the game at 35.
Center recovered a fumble on a Kilgore pitch-out that led to a 41-yard pass to Evans for the lead, and the Riders finished it off with a 2-yard run by Evans with 1:59 left.
Subvarsity: Kilgore's junior varsity didn't play a game Thursday night; Center has no JV team. As a result, the JV Bulldogs will have been off two weeks by the time they kick off at Bullard next Thursday night, the season finale.
Kilgore's freshmen got a win over Center, blowing the Roughriders out, 42-0. Trey Epps was the big gun, scoring four touchdowns. A.J. Smith had three interceptions as the defensive standout, and returned one for a touchdown, a pick-six.
Dalton McElyea also scored for the freshmen 'Dogs, who are 7-2 on the season and will also wrap up the season next Thursday at Bullard.
The seventh and eighth grade Kilgore Middle School teams split with Center. Kilgore's seventh grade B team won, 6-0; the seventh grade A-team lost, 14-8; the eighth grade B team won, 28-0; and the eighth grade A team lost, 28-26.