After the trip to Henderson didn’t have a happy ending, the Kilgore Bulldogs will have to set their sights on taking control of the rest of their schedule.

That starts this Friday at home, here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, against Van at 7:30 p.m. It’s game three of Kilgore’s District 10-4A, Division I schedule, and the Ragin’ Red are 1-1 so far: a win over Chapel Hill in the first district game, then a 36-29 loss at Henderson last week.

Tickets are on sale in advance at the new KHS athletic office, in the transportation building on campus. As usual, if you can’t be there, or just want to listen to the game as an accompaniment to what you’re seeing on the field, check out Ragin’ Red Broadcasting’s call of the game on KDOK 105.3-FM, or online at kdokradio.com.

As always, the ultimate goal is to win a state title; you can’t do that if you’re not in the playoffs. The top four teams in the six-team district go to the UIL Class 4A playoffs, something Kilgore has done every year except twice since 1995.

That’s an impressive streak, but it’s likely no one in that KHS locker room is thinking about just getting into the playoffs. There’s a lot of football left. Even though they have a loss, there’s nothing that has eliminated the Bulldogs from district title contention. That’s still out there as a goal.

The first step would be a win over Van. But it won’t be easy. Van is 5-2, is also 1-1 in district play, and was the one team that held Carthage to just 21 points, Carthage’s lowest point total of the season (although Van did lose that game).

The Vandals, coached by Jared Moffett, beat Kilgore a season ago, although the Bulldogs rebounded and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to Midlothian Heritage.

Unlike last weekend’s game at Henderson, there’s not a lot of history here between the Ragin’ Red and Van. The two have played twice; Kilgore won the first meeting, and Van, as mentioned, won last year. 

A week ago, in the loss at Henderson, neither Kilgore nor Henderson managed much offense in a defensive battle in the first half. The Bulldogs fell behind when Caleb Medford, who played sparingly in the first half, ran for a couple of touchdowns and gave the Lions a 36-22 lead.

Kilgore punted the ball back to Henderson, who, in trying to run out the clock, fumbled the ball right back to the Bulldogs, who scored with 51 seconds left. But Kilgore couldn’t pull off the onside kick recovery, and the Lions ran out the rest of the clock in a third straight win over Kilgore, dating back to a third-round playoff battle in Longview in 2017.

Kilgore was held to a season-low 122 rushing yards last week; Trey Epps led with 66 yards. Kennieth Lacy had the game’s only rushing touchdown for KHS.

Quarterback Dalton McElyea was 17-of-27 for 144 yards, two touchdowns (both to Brian Brown) and caught a touchdown on a trick play, thrown by Donovan Adkins. Brown finished with six catches for 54 yards and the two scores, and DaVondrick Crowe had five catches for 60 yards.

On the season, Kilgore has 1,323 yards rushing, led by Lacy’s 607, and at some point, Lacy and Epps have both missed time due to injuries. McElyea for the season is 78-of-132 for 857 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

The old injury bug has bitten Kilgore hard this year, it seems, along the offensive line and in the backfield. But there’s depth there, and coach Mike Wood and his staff will do what they can to put the Bulldogs in a position to succeed.

Defensively, in spite of the final score, the Bulldogs did a nice job corralling the Lions. They only allowed 79 rushing yards, and 219 total yards. Deundre Blanton had Kilgore’s only sack in the game, and as mentioned, McFarland had two of Henderson’s three turnovers, the interception and the fumble recovery. Brown had the other, another fumble.

Zack Williams blocked an extra point in the first half, and Brown also led the team in tackles (13). Defensive lineman Kaden Kenney had eight, but stood tall with five tackles for loss. Sam Witt had two tackles for loss, and Trey Williams and Kentravious Anderson each had one.

This season, Brown’s 95 tackles tops the Bulldogs; Witt has 56, and McFarland, 54. Kenney has 11 tackles for loss, and Blanton has seven; Blanton leads with three sacks. Kenney has three, and Brantley Propes, two. Adkins already has five interceptions and four pass break-ups. He’s also got two blocked kicks and two forced fumbles. McFarland has three interceptions, and Bobby Owens, Brown, Williams, Dalton Smith and Davin Rider each have one.

Kenney leads the Ragin’ Red with five quarterback hurries; Anderson has four, and Blanton, Witt and Alex Clay-Chavez each have two.

The rest of the schedule looks like this: at Palestine next Friday night, Nov. 1, and at home against Carthage to close out the regular season on Nov. 8.

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