A year ago, a battle-tested Kilgore High School football team traveled to Sheldon ISD Stadium to face El Campo, punched the Ricebirds in the mouth early, and never really lost control of the game on the way to a playoff win. It’s a fairly good bet that first-year KHS head coach Clint Fuller would love a repeat of that scenario this Friday against Stafford (7-4), the team the Bulldogs will face in the second (or area) round of the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A Division I playoffs. Kilgore (10-1) has won eight straight games. Kickoff for Friday night’s contest is set for 7 p.m. kickoff at Sheldon ISD. The season is over for the losing team. The winners will face either Chapel Hill (8-3), one of Kilgore’s district rivals, or Brazosport (5-5) next week. KISD has decided to allow students an early release on Friday for those who’d like to travel to the game. Ragin’ Red Broadcasting will call the game on KDOK 105.3-FM and on kdokradio.com, and there are also live-streaming options. Tickets will be sold at the gate, for $8 each, cash only. They’re also available online at etix.com/ticket/p/2483234/Stafford-homevskilgore-visitor-houston-panther-stadium. The stadium’s address is Sheldon ISD Panther Stadium, 11433C East Sam Houston Parkway North, Houston, Texas, 77044. Kilgore and Stafford have met in the playoffs before, back in 2016 in College Station. Stafford came out on top in that meeting, 27-21. This year, the Spartans are 7-4 overall, but went 4-1 in district play, finishing the runners-up in their district. Counting last week’s 50-7 first-round playoff win over Furr, the Spartans have won five straight games. Their one district loss was a big one: 49-7, to eventual district champ El Campo – a frequent Kilgore playoff opponent. The Spartans are coached by Ken Savannah, and average 31 points a game. They’re allowing on average 20 points a game. The Spartans haven’t thrown the ball all that much this season. Quarterback Brayden Batiste, a junior, has completed 76-of-135 passes for 938 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Tyler Miller leads the team in catches (19 of them for 335 yards and six touchdowns). The running game has yielded 2,069 yards on the ground for the Spartans, and 28 touchdowns, an average of 5.7 yards a carry. Sophomore Jamaal Wiley leads the team in rushing: 1,115 yards and 16 touchdowns on 180 carries, an average of about 6.2 yards a carry. Ivan Maldonado is 27-of-41 in extra point attempts (interesting) and has only attempted one field goal this year, a miss. Defensively, safety Ashton Miller and Julius Nealey lead the team in tackles, each with 61. Senior Isaiah Bogerty leads the team in tackles for loss (18; Miller has 11). Bogerty also has 10 sacks, leading the team in that category (collectively, the team has 23), and in quarterback hurries (15). Brayden Collins has three interceptions, which leads the Spartans (who have 25 total turnovers: 14 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries). Fans of Kilgore football know the Bulldogs have been given a spark of intensity from Fuller, who came back to the town in which he grew up – with his father Phil as defensive coordinator at Kilgore College – and has led the Ragin’ Red quite well. Fuller has been impressive his entire career, which had him most recently serving as defensive coordinator at Pleasant Grove. The Ragin’ Red knocked off Huffman-Hargrave last week in Crockett in the first round, and now turns its eyes to Stafford, and a potential second win at Sheldon ISD Stadium. A balanced offense and an opportunistic defense has Kilgore rolling. Center Alex Cervantes and offensive linemen Jared Rich, McCabe Wheeler, Justin Flores, and Taylor Hill, among others, have helped the Bulldogs to 4,589 yards, including 2,807 on the ground – and 8 yards on average a carry. That’s a lot – a good average would be 4.5 yards a carry, and the ‘Dogs average almost twice that. Of course, Davin Rider is the engine. The senior running back has a very physical style, and it’s worked for him to the tune of 1,819 yards and 25 touchdowns on 176 carries, an average of 10.3 yards a carry. And he’s fumbled three times all season, having lost just one. Isaiah Ross and Matthew Hardy are a good change of pace from Rider and can be poison to the other team’s defense, as well: Ross has 680 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, including one late last week that put away Huffman-Hargrave. Hardy has 278 yards and a score. Quarterback Da’Marion Van Zandt is just a junior and came into this season relatively inexperienced. It doesn’t show in the big-armed QB, who doesn’t get rattled, it seems. Van Zandt only threw for 95 yards last week, but the Falcons couldn’t stop Kilgore’s running game. Overall this season, he’s completed 104-of-173 passes for 1,773 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions, and also has thrown for a two-point conversion. Van Zandt’s passes have gone to 10 different receivers. Jermaine Roney leads the pack. Roney, also a senior, seems to have three to four huge plays a game, including last week’s block of an extra point returned for two for KHS. Roney leads the team in catches (33), yards (542) and touchdowns (nine). Dadrian Franklin has 16 catches for 192 yards and a score; Corey Rider, who returned last week from an injury, has 13 catches for 389 yards and five touchdowns; Matthew Tyeskie has 14 catches for 161 yards; P.J. Wiley has 16 for 192 yards and a score; Rider has eight for 158 yards and a TD; and Ross has six for 159 yards, and a TD, as well. Some teams get into trouble with a weak kicking game. Not Kilgore. The Bulldogs are blessed to have both kicker Chris Baldazo and punter Jose Jaime. Baldazo has hit 56-of-61 extra points he has kicked, and is 4-of-7 in field goal kicks, a long of 45 yards, but also has one of 41. As for Jaime, he has only punted 21 times all season, but averages 38 yards a punt. On defense, the Bulldogs have allowed 1,956 yards rushing – on average, that’s about 177 yards a game that the opponents are rushing for. Kilgore has allowed 3,839 yards this season, an average of about 349 yards a game. In 115 opponents’ possessions, the Bulldogs’ ‘D’ has forced 35 three-and-outs (possessions in which the opponent failed to get a first down and had to punt). The Bulldogs have about 19 sacks this season, and pressure the quarterback well: Alex Chavez (13), Zaelen Matthews (eight) and Jackson Harris (seven) are the team’s leaders in hurries, and all play up front on the defensive line. Chris Ervin still leads the team in tackles (87), has six tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Zaylon Stoker and Davin Rider also each have two interceptions. Peyton Christian has three sacks and, like Ervin, six tackles for loss.

Huffman-Hargrave last week in Crockett in the first round, and now turns its eyes to Stafford, and a potential second win at Sheldon ISD Stadium.

A balanced offense and an opportunistic defense has Kilgore rolling.

Center Alex Cervantes and offensive linemen Jared Rich, McCabe Wheeler, Justin Flores, and Taylor Hill, among others, have helped the Bulldogs to 4,589 yards, including 2,807 on the ground – and 8 yards on average a carry. That’s a lot – a good average would be 4.5 yards a carry, and the ‘Dogs average almost twice that.

Of course, Davin Rider is the engine. The senior running back has a very physical style, and it’s worked for him to the tune of 1,819 yards and 25 touchdowns on 176 carries, an average of 10.3 yards a carry. And he’s fumbled three times all season, having lost just one.

Isaiah Ross and Matthew Hardy are a good change of pace from Rider and can be poison to the other team’s defense, as well: Ross has 680 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, including one late last week that put away Huffman-Hargrave. Hardy has 278 yards and a score.

Quarterback Da’Marion Van Zandt is just a junior and came into this season relatively inexperienced. It doesn’t show in the big-armed QB, who doesn’t get rattled, it seems. Van Zandt only threw for 95 yards last week, but the Falcons couldn’t stop Kilgore’s running game. Overall this season, he’s completed 104-of-173 passes for 1,773 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions, and also has thrown for a two-point conversion.

Van Zandt’s passes have gone to 10 different receivers. Jermaine Roney leads the pack. Roney, also a senior, seems to have three to four huge plays a game, including last week’s block of an extra point returned for two for KHS. Roney leads the team in catches (33), yards (542) and touchdowns (nine). Dadrian Franklin has 16 catches for 192 yards and a score; Corey Rider, who returned last week from an injury, has 13 catches for 389 yards and five touchdowns; Matthew Tyeskie has 14 catches for 161 yards; P.J. Wiley has 16 for 192 yards and a score; Rider has eight for 158 yards and a TD; and Ross has six for 159 yards, and a TD, as well.

Some teams get into trouble with a weak kicking game. Not Kilgore. The Bulldogs are blessed to have both kicker Chris Baldazo and punter Jose Jaime. Baldazo has hit 56-of-61 extra points he has kicked, and is 4-of-7 in field goal kicks, a long of 45 yards, but also has one of 41.

As for Jaime, he has only punted 21 times all season, but averages 38 yards a punt.

On defense, the Bulldogs have allowed 1,956 yards rushing – on average, that’s about 177 yards a game that the opponents are rushing for. Kilgore has allowed 3,839 yards this season, an average of about 349 yards a game. In 115 opponents’ possessions, the Bulldogs’ ‘D’ has forced 35 three-and-outs (possessions in which the opponent failed to get a first down and had to punt).

The Bulldogs have about 19 sacks this season, and pressure the quarterback well: Alex Chavez (13), Zaelen Matthews (eight) and Jackson Harris (seven) are the team’s leaders in hurries, and all play up front on the defensive line.

Chris Ervin still leads the team in tackles (87), has six tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Zaylon Stoker and Davin Rider also each have two interceptions. Peyton Christian has three sacks and, like Ervin, six tackles for loss.

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