PALESTINE – A second straight back-and-forth game? Not good for the Kilgore Bulldogs?

Don’t place that bet.

Kilgore came to Palestine’s Wildcat Stadium Friday night for the District 9-4A, Division I opener, and after getting off to a red-hot start, survived a scrappy Wildcats team for a 49-28 win.

Quarterback Dalton McElyea had four touchdown passes, running back Tray Epps had a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 67-yard touchdown run, and Donovan Adkins had a whale of a night, putting on a show: in addition to a touchdown catch, he had a 47-yard punt return for a score, then scored three plays later on an interception return for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs, now, get a well-deserved open date next week, Oct. 2. They’re 3-2, and 1-0 in district play. They’ll welcome new district opponent Mabank to R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium on Friday night, Oct. 9, and that will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools in football.

After a close first half that saw them go in with a 21-14 lead, Kilgore watched Palestine tie the game – running back Jakayron Conley had all three touchdowns for the Wildcats – the Bulldogs went off and blew the game wide open.

Kilgore scored three touchdowns in a three-minute span. McElyea found Jermaine Roney for a 45-yard score that, combined with Chris Baldazo’s extra point, gave KHS a 28-21 lead.

The Bulldogs forced Palestine to punt, and “Hollywood” Adkins fielded it at Palestine’s 47 – and was gone, all the way for the score. Three plays later on a third down for the Wildcats, quarterback De’myzjean Martin misfired and Adkins didn’t, making the interception and returning for a 28-yard touchdown. That gave the Bulldogs a 42-21 lead.

Palestine did score again, a 70-yard pass from Martin to Dominque Milton, a big tight end, but Kilgore managed to hold off a fourth-quarter charge. They had help from Epps, who scored again, this time on a 67-yard TD run that killed Palestine’s chances for any comeback.

Kilgore came out swinging in this one.

The Bulldogs got the ball after a 24-yard kick return by Donovan Adkins to start the game, starting at midfield and wasted no time. They had a pass to Cade Pippen for a 26-yard gain, down to Palestine’s 24-yard-line, and then scored two plays later on a 14-yard pass from McElyea to Adkins. Chris Baldazo’s extra point gave Kilgore a 7-0 lead with 10:10 left in the first quarter.

Kilgore’s defense stiffened on Palestine’s first possession, stopping the Wildcats on Kilgore’s 32. That would become a theme: Kilgore stopped the Wildcats on downs three times in the first half.

On the second KHS possession, Kilgore punched again, and landed it, a 45-yard touchdown pass from McElyea to a wide-open Tray Epps.

, who came out of the backfield and caught the pass along his own sideline and outraced a Palestine cornerback to the end zone for Kilgore’s second score of the night. Baldazo again hit the point after and Kilgore led, 14-0.

The Bulldogs continued to stymie Palestine’s offense, including sacks by Kaden Kenney and by Alex Chavez, but Palestine did get on the board. McElyea passed to Brian Brown, but the ball was jarred loose and picked up by a Palestine defender, who returned it 38 yards to Kilgore’s 7. Jakaryon Conley scored two plays later on a 4-yard run and cut Kilgore’s lead in half, 14-7, with 9:27 left in the half.

Jermaine Roney broke free for a great return, to Palestine’s 44, and after a quick strike to Adkins to get 14 yards, and then McElyea got his hat trick, his third touchdown pass of the game, this one to Omarion Smith for a 6-yard score. Baldazo stayed perfect and got the point after for a 21-7 Kilgore lead with five minutes exactly left in the half.

It wouldn’t end that way. The Wildcats got one more score, a 14-yard touchdown run by Conley, and cut it to 21-14, the eventual halftime score.

Quick stats after the game: 

Epps finished with 126 yards rushing and the touchdown, and the 45-yard TD catch. Roney had two catches for 49 yards and the score. Adkins had three for 21 yards and the score, the punt return for the score and the pick-six.

Cade Pippen had four catches for 74 yards. Smith had the 6-yard touchdown catch, and Brian Brown had a catch for 7 yards.

McElyea was 13-of-20 for 208 yards, the four scores, and no interceptions.

(See actual from-film game stats later today, from KHS football to the News Herald, including defensive numbers)

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