The Kilgore Bulldogs’ mindset changes this week – it’s time to forget the regular season and move into playoff mode.
Kilgore (5-5) is the number four seed from District 10-4A, Division I, and needed help to get into the postseason. But that doesn’t matter now. They’re in.
The Bulldogs open the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A playoffs with a bi-district, or first-round, game against Crandall (8-2) in Athens. But take note: if you go to Athens on Friday, you’ll be too late. The game is Thursday night, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Tickets are on sale in advance, as usual, at the KHS athletic office on campus, in the transportation building near the gym. Kilgore will be the visitors in the contest.
If you can’t go, hear it live on KDOK radio 105.3-FM, or online at kdokradio.com, normally courtesy of the Ragin’ Red Broadcasting team of Doug Smith, Jason Smith and Don Hedrick, but this week, Manny Almanza and Trey Hattaway will be filling in.
The winner of Kilgore-Crandall will play either Stafford or Little Cypress-Mauriceville in the second, or area, round.
Let’s set the tone: Kilgore is playing its 928th game of its football history. The Bulldogs have a 535-363-30 record.
Kilgore is going for its 37th all-time playoff win. The Bulldogs have a 36-29-1 playoff record in their history. They’ve won 17 district championships, their last in 2013.
The Ragin’ Red are coached by Mike Wood, who took over the program in 2010 after serving as the program’s longtime defensive coordinator. Kilgore is 73-48 under Wood, with a state championship game appearance (in 2013), and in five of those seasons, they’ve played in at least 12 games, meaning at least a third-round playoff game appearance in each of those years.
Kilgore has never faced Crandall in football whatsoever, let alone in the playoffs.
Crandall plays in District 9-4A, DI, and actually lost in a district game to Midlothian Hertiage, 23-7. But Heritage was ruled to have played an ineligible player, and had to forfeit. Crandall won the district championship as a result, because the Pirates were able to win the rest of their district games.
Those games were against Mabank (21-14 Crandall in overtime), Waxahachie Life (35-8), Quinlan Ford (28-6), and Athens (52-28).
Crandall and Kilgore have two common opponents: Chapel Hill and Palestine. Chapel Hill laid waste to Crandall, 42-0, in Crandall in the season opener. They beat Palestine, 24-20, on Sept. 27 at Palestine.
Kilgore was 1-1 against those teams, too. Kilgore beat Chapel Hill, 35-7, in the district opener here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium. But the Bulldogs lost at Palestine two weeks ago, 21-7.
Crandall is 8-2. They’ve won five of their last six (technically losing to Heritage on the field), all six if you count the forfeit. And they’ll be playing at Athens’ stadium for the second straight weekend. Their game last Friday was at Athens.
Kilgore will try to bounce back from a less-than-stellar few weeks. The Bulldogs, led by quarterback Dalton McElyea, have a strong running game based on a good offensive line: Brayden Johnson, Devin Coleman, C.J. Brown, Calvin Woodside, Josh Flores, Scott Silvey, Josh Kennel, Francisco Morales, and others.
Injuries have definitely played a role in Kilgore’s season, but hopefully the Bulldogs have turned a corner there. On the season, Kilgore has 1,909 rushing yards, average 6.4 yards a carry as an offense, and 17 rushing touchdowns. Trey Epps, a junior, has 821 yards and seven scores on 95 carries, averaging a little more than 8 ½ yards a carry. Kennieth Lacy, a senior, has 857 yards and 11 touchdowns on 134 carries, and has the same average per carry (6.4) as the team.
McElyea has completed 102-of-185 passes for 1,063 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s completed 25 passes to Brian Brown for 266 yards and four scores. DaVondrick Crowe has 21 catches for 199 yards and a score, and Donovan Adkins has 18 catches for 248 yards and also has four scores. Cade Pippen has 14 catches for 117 yards.
Pippen has also been punting for Kilgore in recent weeks, and has punted 11 times, an average of right at 39 yards a punt. Kicker Chris Baldazo, a sophomore, is 23-of-23 in extra points and 4-of-6 in field goals.
Brown, a linebacker, leads Kilgore in tackles, with 120, two for loss, and has two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Sam Witt, also a linebacker, has 79 tackles, six for loss, a half-sack, and two forced fumbles.
Jayce McFarland, a safety, has 75 tackles, three for loss, four interceptions, three pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery. Adkins, a cornerback, has 56 tackles, five interceptions, five pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.
Defensive lineman Kaden Kenney leads the team with 13 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. He also has three sacks. Deundre Blanton has four sacks, which leads the team, and eight tackles for loss to go with four hurries. Kentravious Anderson, Trey Williams and Davin Rider are also key members of the Bulldogs’ defense; Brown and Rider combined for a safety in the final regular season game.
On the year, Kilgore has allowed 3,035 yards (about 303 a game, over 10 games), 1,565 of them through the air, just a shade more than the rushing yardage.