There wasn’t a lot of drama at a very cold R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium Friday night, as the Carthage Bulldogs brought their unbeaten football program to town, and took excitement out of the night early.
Kilgore lost the regular season finale, 49-11, to the District 10-4A, Division I champion Carthage, but the Ragin’ Red still clinched a berth in the UIL Class 4A playoffs, thanks to a 35-20 Henderson win over Van.
Kilgore (5-5) will face Crandall Thursday night in Athens, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The Bulldogs are the visitors in the contest. The Crandall Pirates are 8-2, and won District 9-4A, Division I after Midlothian Heritage (who beat Crandall) was ruled to have played an ineligible player.
Crandall's two losses were to Chapel Hill (42-0) and Dallas Carter (39-22).
Carthage quarterback Kai Horton, behind a massive offensive line that included senior Tykiest Crawford (6-foot-8, 336 pounds), guided his team on the game’s first possession, and after missing on a first-down pass after they got into the red zone, he didn’t miss on the second – he found running back Mason Courtney on a 17-yard scoring pass. Carthage led 7-0, with 8:10 left in the first quarter.
There would be more of the same, unfortunately for Kilgore, throughout the half.
Carthage tried what looked like a purposeful onside kick, but Kilgore recovered. The Bulldogs got a nice 24-yard pass play from Dalton McElyea to Donovan Adkins, but ultimately, a fourth-down pass to DaVondrick Crowe was ruled to be short, and Carthage took over on downs.
Carthage wasted no time, as Horton went long to Kel Williams that Williams took the distance – 49 yards – for a touchdown. CHS led, 14-0, with 2:06 left in the quarter.
They would add three more touchdowns: a 21-yard touchdown run by Jaden Thomas, a 20-yard pass to Craig McNew, and then a 17-yard pass to Craig McNew (set up by an interception, then a 47-yard completion to Kelvontay Dixon).
Kilgore got a long run by Trey Epps down to Carthage’s 15-yard-line with a little more than a half-minute left in the half, but the Bulldogs failed to score on a handful of passes, and Carthage took the 35-0 lead into the half.
The Ragin’ Red’s first offensive series of the second half ended in a punt, and Carthage scored on theirs, a 3-yard touchdown run by Courtney, capping an 11-yard drive.
Kilgore got onto the scoreboard late in the third quarter, when they recorded a safety on a tackle by Davin Rider and Brian Brown in the end zone. On the possession after, Kilgore got its only touchdown of the game, a 37-yard run by Kennieth Lacy.
Carthage did get one more: a 64-yard pass play to Cartrell Fulton from Anthony Wilson, in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Kilgore failed to convert a fourth-down and 7 with just over four minutes left, and incredibly, got another safety after a late-game Carthage miscue on fourth down.
Horton finished up 16-of-21 for 255 yards and four touchdown passes, all in the first half. Courtney led Carthage in rushing: 14 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown.
McElyea finished 7-of-18 for 47 yards and an interception. Cade Pippen, Adkins, Crowe and Brown each had a catch. Lacy led Kilgore on the ground, with 84 yards and the score on 12 carries.
It was a tough game for Kilgore, and for the Kilgore fans, but the Bulldogs do extend their playoff streak. Kilgore has only missed the playoffs twice (2006, 2010) since 1995.