ATHENS – Kilgore’s 2019 football season is over, unfortunately, after one game in the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A Division I playoffs.

Kilgore just simply made too many mistakes to get a win over Crandall, who defeated the Bulldogs, 14-0, here at Bruce Field on Thursday night. The Ragin’ Red ended its season with a 5-6 overall record. Crandall (9-2) advances into the second, or area, round, to take on either Stafford or Little Cypress-Mauriceville next weekend.

Coach Mike Wood’s Ragin’ Red got off to a good start. Kilgore drove almost the length of the field on the game’s very first possession, only to fumble the ball to Crandall at the Pirates’ 10-yard-line. Kilgore’s defense was stout, for the most part, particularly in the first half.

But the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs at Crandall’s 31 on their second possession, and after Brian Brown sacked Crandall quarterback Holt Reese, Kilgore began another.

Sha’brun Booker ended that Kilgore trip with an interception at his own 30, and then with just 2:32 left in the half, the Pirates scored, a 61-yard run by Sammy Omosigho, incredibly just a freshman who had a nose for the ball on both sides of it against Kilgore.

Kilgore’s next drive ended in an interception, too, this time by Mason Daugherty, and Crandall ran the final minute off the first-half clock.

Trailing 7-0, Kilgore ultimately forced the Pirates to punt away the first possession of the second half, but disaster struck – although it could have been worse – on the Bulldogs’ next drive.

Crandall’s punt pushed Kilgore back to a starting point at its own 9, and ultimately, Kennieth Lacy was thrown down for no gain on a third-and-2 at the 18. On the punt, though, the ball sailed high over the head of Kilgore’s Cade Pippen at his own goal line. Somehow, Pippen was able to leap and pull the ball down, and being chased, he did get off a punt, but it was snagged by – who else? – Omosigho, at Kilgore’s 10. He was tackled there, but that would lead to the Pirates’ only other score of the game.

Damerian Wigenton picked up 9 on first down, and Omosigho, who lined up at quarterback, ran it in on second down. Austin Cruse booted the extra point and that would be the final score of the game, at 5:18 of the third quarter.

Not that Kilgore didn’t have more chances, but Crandall seemed to always either make a play, or benefit from a Kilgore mistake.

Things looked to turn a bit when Pippen drilled a punt down to Crandall’s 3-yard-line, but the Pirates made a play again – it was Reese, on third and 7 at his own 6, who found receiver Billy Myers at the 24, an 18-yard pass play that kept the drive alive. Crandall did have to punt the ball back to Kilgore, but was able to run time off the clock.

Kilgore had a couple of big pass plays from Dalton McElyea to Donovan Adkins – each for 23 yards – in the first half, that didn’t result in points on those possessions. But on the first series of the fourth quarter, it looked as though the Bulldogs might score. McElyea found Brown along Kilgore’s sideline, an apparent 43-yard completion down to Crandall’s 12.

But the ‘Dogs were flagged for an ineligible man downfield, and the play was nuliified. Kilgore got a huge run from McElyea to the Crandall 34 on the next play, but fumbled the ball back to the Pirates three plays later at the Crandall 13.

It was just that kind of a night.

The final sequence of the game saw Crandall punt the ball back to KHS with 3:57 left, still up 14-0. A quick Kilgore score, and the Bulldogs might still have a chance. McElyea’s first pass fell incompete, but then he completed three straight passes to Adkins, was sacked, then completed another pass to Adkins for 32 yards to the Pirates’ 36. Two plays later, on third down, he found Billy Bell along the Crandall sidelines, at the 5, for an incredible catch. Bell was pulled down at the 2.

That set up first and goal with just over two minutes to play. A false start moved Kilgore back to the 5, and then two passes the next two plays brought no yardage. On third and goal at the 6, there looked to be a fumble on the exchange in the backfield, but the end result was Crandall falling on the ball inside its own 10, and running out the final minute and a half on the clock.

In spite of the loss, Kilgore outgained Crandall in total yards (264 to 220).

McElyea finished 11-of-17 for 170 yards, but the two interceptions. Tray Epps and Lacy combined for 62 yards, as the Bulldogs finished with 94 rushing yards.

Adkins finished with six catches for 91 yards. Pippen had a catch over the middle for 16 yards. Epps had one for 10 yards. Brown had a 19-yard catch, although his big play to Crandall’s 12 was called back on the penalty. Bell, of course, had the long one down to the Crandall 2 on the final Kilgore possession.

It was the first meeting between the schools in football, and brought a close to what started as a promising Kilgore season, a 3-0 start that included a gutty win at Nacogdoches, a blowout of Hallsville on the road, and a revenge win over Pine Tree that went to three overtimes.

But after that, Kilgore seemed to struggle, first against a good-sized defense at home against Texas High, and then with injuries, something that plagued the Bulldogs the rest of the season, it seemed. Kilgore did beat Chapel Hill and Van in district play, but Henderson, Palestine and Carthage held off KHS.

Still, the Ragin’ Red did get back to the playoffs, for the 23rd time in the last 25 years, and with a young nucleus, Kilgore does have something to build upon.

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