It’s not Christmas. But for five young men from Kilgore High School, it’s pretty close.

Very few Februarys come and go at KHS without a fairly-busy National Signing Day, and even with a second NSD date added each calendar year in December, there’s usually a flurry of activity on the spring date.

That was the case again this year, as faculty, family, coaches and friends gathered at the KHS gym Wednesday morning for the signing ceremony – five Bulldogs made their plans public, signing national letters of intent to continue their education and their football careers at the collegiate level.

Donovan Adkins, the multi-positioned player that gave so many opposing coaches fits in his Kilgore High career, signed with Sam Houston State University. Teammates Dalton McElyea and Tray Epps both signed with Stephen F. Austin University. Eli Caruthers signed with Texas A&M-Commerce, and Kaden Kenney signed with Kilgore College.

Each of the young men had a big impact on Kilgore’s fortunes in the recently-completed 2020 season, a 10-4 record for Kilgore in which the ‘Dogs got within two games of the UIL Class 4A Division I state title game.

Adkins lined up at defensive back, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner for the Bulldogs and was all-district at all four. He caught 38 passes for 744 yards and 13 touchdowns this season – those 13 touchdowns tied the record for single-season touchdown catches in KHS football history (Jonathan Thompson also had 13 in 1998). He averaged 19.6 yards a catch.

As a punt returner, Adkins had 15 returns for 250 yards, a long of 59 yards, an average of 16.7 yards per return, and two touchdowns. Returning kicks, Adkins had 17 returns for 416 yards, and also a long of 59 yards. He didn’t have a kick returned for a touchdown this year, but he did average 24.5 yards a return.

Epps, of course, made headlines all across the state when he had a 401-yard, six-touchdown performance in a win at Chapel Hill this season – those are both new Kilgore single-game records. Epps finished with 1,970 yards on 245 carries (an average of eight yards a carry), 24 rushing touchdowns, and fumbled only twice.

He also caught 19 passes for 295 yards (a 15.5-yard-per-catch average), and two touchdowns. Epps lost only two fumbles all season.

Oh, and for the single-game performance at Chapel Hill, Epps was named both the Built Ford Tough Player of the Week in 4A across Texas that week, as well as the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football player of the week award.

“All” quarterback Dalton McElyea did in his second full season as a starter was complete 179 of 275 passes (a 65 percent completion rate) for 2,689 yards, 27 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. McElyea is the most decorated quarterback in Kilgore football history – he set single-season records for passing yardage and touchdown passes, passing yards in a single game, career passing yards at KHS, and career touchdown passes, as well.

Caruthers had an excellent year at linebacker for the Bulldogs. He had 19 tackles in a single game (in the playoff loss to Lindale), and finished with 161 total tackles, 104 of them solo, nine for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and seven quarterback hurries.

Kenney, the ever-quiet but all-business defensive end, had 71 tackles, 32 solo, five for loss, two sacks and a whopping 23 hurries. Kenney will stay home to suit up for coach Willie Gooden’s KC Rangers, who are actually about to play a belated 2020 football season, beginning March 27 at home against Blinn.

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