An emotional, scrappy Kilgore High School football team defended their home field for 3 ½ hours Friday night at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, but in a heavyweight fight with Texas High, it was the Tigers that got up off the canvas at the last second.
Texas High tailback Chris Sutton scored on a 4-yard run, falling into the end zone, really, as Kilgore defenders did everything they could to pull him down first. Sutton’s touchdown put Texas High up, 44-41, ending the game after two overtimes and another classic between two bluebloods of East Texas high school football.
The result: Kilgore’s first loss of the season, one the Bulldogs and their fans hope is the only loss. Kilgore falls to 3-1 in 2017, with the non-district portion of its schedule complete. Coach Mike Wood’s team will regroup, then make their longest road trip of the regular season down to Palestine for the start of District 9-4A Division I play next week.
Texas High has won two straight, now, and hosts Marshall next Friday.
The game began as a defensive struggle, but escalated quickly enough. Kilgore got onto the scoreboard first with a 7-yard run by big senior Demorrea Richardson, a defensive end by trade, but a running back in the Bulldogs’ power package. That capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive that included a 24-yard run by Nick Hooper. Elian Torres, who had a big night, kicked the extra point and gave Kilgore a 7-0 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Kilgore’s defense did a good job early of containing T-High quarterback Coltin Clack and the Tigers’ passing game, but it finally broke through. Texas High scored on a 43-yard pass from Clack to TCU verbal commit Trevailance Hunt, and tied the game.
Nesba Brown ended the Tigers’ next possession by swatting down a 26-yard field goal attempt, and then, not to be outdone, Kilgore executed a one-play drive of its own: quarterback Patrick Jackson put the ball down the middle of the field, airing it out into the waiting arms of Jonathan Shepherd, Kilgore’s own big gun. Shepherd, all 6-foot-4 of him, hauled it in and never broke stride, racing to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown, his first of the night. This time, though, the extra point was wide, and Kilgore was up, 13-7.
Before the half, the Tigers marched downfield steadily, fought by the Kilgore defense, and got into the end zone on a 17-yard run by Sutton. The extra point put Texas High back in front, 14-13.
The Tigers pulled out their bag of tricks on the next possession, a halfback pass from Chris Lyles to Hunt, who caught it near his own sideline and raced in for a 43-yard score, giving the Tigers a 21-13 lead.
The first-half fireworks continued on Kilgore’s next possession, as offensive coordinator Rafe Mata dialed up Shepherd again. Jackson again dropped back, this time from his own 14-yard-line, and let it fly again. Shep hauled it in yet again, and outran everyone to the end zone for an 86-yard score.
T-High had one more left in it, as the Tigers would get another score before the half on yet another trick play – this time Hunt lined up at quarterback, and scored on (fittingly) a 9-yard run. The Tigers led 28-20 at the halftime break.
Aided in part by back-to-back Texas High penalties for a personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct, Kilgore got within a point once again on an 8-yard third-quarter run by Jaiden Zackery. The Bulldogs trailed 28-27, with just over 6 ½ minutes to go in the third.
With just seconds left in the third quarter, the Tigers extended their lead to 35-27 on a 17-yard pass from Clack to Hunt, and then Kilgore tied the game in dramatic fashion on an 81-yard touchdown run by Ja’Vorie Hamilton with roughly five minutes left in the game (officials took over the game clock with about 6 ½ minutes left). Jackson passed to fullback Michael French for the two-point conversion that tied things at 35-all with 11 seconds left.
Clack kneeled out those 11 seconds, and overtime began -- each team gets a possession, beginning at the opponents’ 25-yard-line.
Kilgore forced the Tigers to kick a 37-yard field goal in the first overtime – Texas High led, 38-35, at that point. But Torres kicked a game-tying one, 38-all, to send the game to overtime number two.
The Bulldogs were held out of the end zone on their first possession of the second overtime, but Torres gave Kilgore the lead, 41-38, on a 41-yard field goal.
Clack found Lyles on third down on a pass to Kilgore’s 11-yard-line, and two plays later, Sutton scored his game-winner.
Clack finished the game 20-of-35 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Lyles was 1-of-1, the 43-yard score to Hunt. Hunt caught three touchdowns and 10 passes total for 159 yards, and then ran for the score. Sutton had 119 yards and the two scores on 21 carries. Clack had 70 yards on 12 carries.
For Kilgore, Jackson was 6-of-13 for 173 yards and two scores, both to Shepherd, and all in the first half. Shepherd had two catches for 152 yards, both scores. Deiontrae Wheat and Zackery each had an 8-yard catch and Briant Mumphrey had 2 for 5 yards.
On the ground, Hamilton ran for 118 yards and the score on 10 carries. Jackson had 15 carries for 78 yards, and Zackery, 10 for 55 yards and a score. Hooper ran nine times for 67 yards; Mumphrey, five times for 12; Richardson had the 7-yard touchdown carry, and Wheat had two carries for 26 yards.