Technically, the Kilgore Bulldogs’ schedule can’t get any harder for the rest of the year.
Coach Clint Fuller’s Ragin’ Red are 0-2 – but they’ve played the two top teams in Class 4A, according to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football state rankings. Doesn’t get much more challenging than that.
This week’s opponent – the Pine Tree Pirates – is at the other end of the spectrum. Pine Tree is 0-2. But coach Fuller might remind everyone that those same Pine Tree Pirates dealt Kilgore its only regular season loss a year ago.
Kilgore’s Bulldogs host Pine Tree, the Bulldogs’ first home game of the season at a new-look R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
For anyone who can’t make it, tune in on the radio to the Ragin’ Red Broadcasting call of the game on KDOK on 105.3-FM, and hear that same broadcast online at kdokradio.com.
Kilgore had a tough outing at Carthage in week one, but gave Gilmer everything it wanted until the final bell last weekend, getting within two points (28-26) late in the contest before the second-ranked Buckeyes added 12 points to seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
Gilmer had to get a huge game from TCU verbal commit Rohan Fluellen, who delivered. Fluellen had seven passes for 126 yards, returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown right before halftime that stole momentum back from the Bulldogs, who had just gotten within two on a good drive and a 32-yard field goal by Leo Yzaguirre.
Kilgore’s offense was better against the Buckeyes, with 273 yards of total offense. Isaiah Ross had 131 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries, and didn’t turn the ball over.
Quarterback DaMarion VanZandt did have an interceptions against a good Gilmer secondary, and didn’t throw it nearly as much as at Carthage. He finished 7-of-18 for 136 yards and a touchdown (to P.J. Wiley, from 39 yards out). Wiley had three catches for 59 yards and the score. Matthew Tyeskie had two for 44 yards. Damarian Franklin had a catch for 22 yards and Zaylon Stoker had one for 11.
Yzaguirre averaged 30 yards on four punts, hit the 32-yard field goal and was perfect, 4-of-4, on extra point attempts. And Franklin had one of the game’s biggest plays, an electrifying 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He finished with 126 yards in returns and the score.
Defensively for Kilgore, the Bulldogs allowed 89 yards rushing, 250 yards passing, and in 12 Gilmer offensive possessions, forced four three-downs and out, not bad.
Jackson Harris was a force. He had nine tackles, and a sack that resulted in a safety. Matthew Hardy and Demontrell Candie also each had nine tackles. Wiley and Candie also each had two tackles for a loss. Stoker had an interception. Wiley had two quarterback hurries, and Candie had one. Chris Williams had two pass break-ups, Wiley, one.
Kilgore plays a Pine Tree team this week that comes off a 40-17 loss at Lindale. The Pirates have gone through yet another coaching change.
They did trail Lindale just 22-17 at halftime, and finished with 304 total yards. But let the game get away from them in the second half, just managing 82 second-half yards (33 rushing, 49 passing).
For the Pirates in the game, Devonta Davis had 108 yards rushing on 4 carries, and Jonathan Fuller had seven catches for 92 yards.
In the two games so far this season, both losses (to Van, 28-14, and to Lindale), the Pirates have been outscored 68-31.
Looking ahead for Kilgore, there’s just one more non-district game after tonight: next week’s homecoming game against Hallsville.
Then District 9-4A, Division I play starts on Sept. 23, at Palestine, a trip Kilgore has made often in the last decade. The Bulldogs get re-acquainted with old rival Jacksonville on Sept. 30, here at R.E. St. John. Kilgore plays at Lindale on Oct. 7, hosts Henderson Oct. 14, visits Athens Oct. 21, has a late-season open date Oct. 28, and then hosts Chapel Hill to close the regular season Nov. 4.
Kilgore, of course, is the defending district champion.
The home game this week after the first two games will be a welcome change for Ragin’ Red players, coaches and their fans after the tough 0-2 start. After a bond issue, R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium has gotten a make-over in the offseason, with new turf, new restrooms, new concession stands and new locker rooms, excluding the Kilgore College field house, of course.