If it seems the playoff race in District 10-4A, Division I – known by many affectionately as “The District of Doom,” an appropriate name for Halloween week – is a little more tight this year, that’s probably because of Palestine’s upset of Henderson a few weeks ago.
The Wildcats have been on the football version of skid row for a few years now, up and down – mostly down – really since the graduation of the great Adrian Peterson back in 2002. Palestine has been little more than a playoff spoiler since then, but this year, with that win over the Lions, the Wildcats are thinking and hoping for more than a spoiler role.
That’s what Kilgore will have to beware of this Friday night, as the Bulldogs return to Wildcat Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff of this 10-4A contest. Coach Mike Wood’s Kilgore squad – 5-3 overall, and 2-1 in district play – has a shot at a district championship.
If the Ragin’ Red can beat Palestine, they’ll be 3-1 in district play. Carthage visits Kilgore next week, and R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium has been a house of horrors for Carthage over the years – a Kilgore win over Carthage isn’t exactly a far-fetched notion.
But that’s putting the pit before the pendulum. It’s Palestine first, and only Palestine that the ‘Dogs must focus this week.
Palestine can still make the playoffs themselves. With a 1-2 record already, a district title is out of the question. But a win over Kilgore and a regular season finale win over Chapel Hill next week would give the Wildcats a 3-2 record, at least enough to make some noise. Remember, they do hold a tiebreaker over Henderson – and Henderson plays at Carthage this week.
The Wildcats went 3-7 a year ago, so they already have as many wins as they did in all of 2018. But they haven’t had much success against Kilgore. In fact, that 2002 Palestine team – with now 30-something Peterson sparking them at running back – was the last one that beat Kilgore, doing so that year in a first-round playoff game at R.E. St. John.
Kilgore has owned the series, for the most part: the Ragin’ Red lead it, 24-10, and won last year’s game, 33-26.
The Bulldogs were impressive last week in taking down Van, 20-14, holding Van’s high-powered, up-tempo offense in check during a night where even a momentary break in the rain was welcomed. It was, for the most part, a constant downpour. But Kilgore went up two touchdowns late, and in spite of a Van rally, the Bulldogs held on for their biggest win so far this season.
The offensive line, as well as running backs Trey Epps and Kennieth Lacy and kicker Chris Baldazo, were big components in the victory. Kilgore was able to run for 315 yards on Van’s defense. Epps had 168 and a touchdown on 12 carries, and Lacy had 148 more, and scored the game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter as it seemed the entire Van defense collapsed on him to try and keep him out of the end zone.
The Bulldogs did throw it around, especially early, in an apparent attempt to try and catch Van off guard in the rain. Dalton McElyea finished 8-of-15 for 59 yards – two catches each by Brian Brown and Donovan Adkins, and a catch each by Cade Pippen, Sam Witt, DaVondrick Crowe.
Sure-handed Pippen handled punting in the game, and did so four times, averaging 38 yards a kick. Baldazo did his job well, too, hitting both of Kilgore’s extra points in the game, as well as going 2-for-2 in field goal attempts, a long of 23 yards.
Kilgore had two interceptions of Van quarterback Jayton Moffett, and got 10 tackles from Adkins. Witt, Jayce McFarland and Brown each had six tackles. Trey Williams had two tackles for loss, and Kaden Kenney and Deundre Blanton each had a sack. Zack Williams batted down a pass meant for Van’s Hunter Hutchins inside Kilgore’s 5-yard-line that looked like a sure touchdown, had Williams not been right on him.
If you can’t make the trip to Palestine, the Ragin’ Red Broadcasting team will call the game live on radio on KDOK 105.3-FM, and online on kdokradio.com, something they’ve been doing most every Friday night in football season for 38 years.
Tickets are on sale in advance at the KHS athletic office on campus, in the transportation building near the gym.