The journey back to the UIL Class 4A playoffs just got a little more difficult for the Kilgore Bulldogs.
Kilgore hosted eight-decades-old rival Henderson on Friday night, here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, in a sloppy, rainy mess of a District 10-4A, Division I game. Caleb Medford scored three touchdowns for the Lions, who managed to pull away from the Bulldogs in the second half for a 28-7 win.
Kilgore (2-5 on the season, 1-1 in district play) will visit Van next Friday night. Henderson (5-2, 2-0) will host Chapel Hill, who actually led defending district and state champion Carthage Friday into the second half before losing.
Kilgore got off to a good start, in spite of a steady, driving rain, against Henderson. The Ragin' Red defense forced Henderson to punt, and on Kilgore's very first play from scrimmage, Tray Epps broke free through a hole opened by the line for an 86-yard touchdown. Elivan Torres booted the extra point to give KHS the 7-0 lead with just under nine minutes to play in the first quarter.
But that would, unfortunately for Kilgore and its fans, be the Bulldogs' only lead of the game.
Henderson tied the game up at seven-all on the very first play of the second quarter, a flea-flicker handed to Kevin Fields, who tossed the ball back to quarterback Sevastian De Leon. De Leon hurled the ball downfield to a sprinting Medford, who hauled it in and went the distance, a 44-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs put together a long drive, but it finally stalled just over midfield. Henderson would score three plays into its next drive, an 87-yard touchdown run by Medford (who lined up at quarterback frequently during the game, as well). The extra point gave the Lions a 14-7 lead, which they took into the half.
Kilgore's offense stumbled a bit, and allowed a sack of quarterback Gus Witt with time winding out in the half. The Lions got the ball back, but couldn't move the ball that well either against a tough Kilgore ‘D,' and punted. Kilgore knelt down the final seconds of the first-half clock.
It was more of the same in the second half for the Bulldogs, who didn't pick up a first down on their first possession of the second half and punted. Kilgore punter Efrain Mojica had a good night, averaging 39 yards a punt, but that included a punt of 50 yards and another of 44, even in the rain.
Henderson finally broke through for a score, a 6-yard run by Medford, with 1:21 left in the third, and then added an insurance run by Eli Jones from 14 yards out that proved to be the backbreaker.
Medford finished with 166 yards rushing and two scores on just six carries, and also had two catches for 54 yards and the score – those two were De Leon's only two catches. He was 2-of-4 for 54 yards and the score.
Jones finished with 86 rushing yards.
For Kilgore, Epps had another big night: 165 yards and the score on 15 carries. But the Bulldogs couldn't get much else going; Witt was 6-of-13 for 28 yards. Colby Powe had three catches; Deiontrae Wheat, Sam Witt and A.J. Smith each had one.
Kilgore and Henderson have split the last four games in the series evenly; Henderson has won the last two. Kilgore owns the lead in the series, 47-32-6.
In the subvarsity games between the programs played in Henderson on Thursday night, Kilgore's freshmen and junior varsity both ran their records to 7-0.
The freshmen, coached by Robert Cooley, won, 49-0. Cooley commended the offensive line, and the defense managed another shutout.
Harold Chavez scored three times from 25, 15 and 60 yards. Devin Rider scored on a 30-yard pass from Thomas Donham, and Corey Rider also scored from 30 yards out. Jermaine Roney scored on a 45-yarder, and Donham had a 50-yarder.
Coach Jay Dean's JV won, 22-6.
Both teams will host Van next Thursday night, starting with the freshmen game at 5 p.m.