A physical battle with Pine Tree might not be what Kilgore fans expected Friday night, but it’s what played out, a third straight game for the Bulldogs against a 5A opponent.
This time, though, it didn’t work out in Kilgore’s favor, as Pine Tree dealt the Bulldogs a 42-27 homecoming loss, the first of the season.
Kilgore (2-1) visits Gladewater next Friday, the final non-district game of the season. The Ragin’ Red returns home Sept. 24 to host Palestine in the first district game for both teams.
Kilgore’s Jermaine Roney caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Da’Marion Van Zandt with 2:41 left to get the Bulldogs within a touchdown, but an onside kick attempt went in Pine Tree’s favor. PT running back Ethan Morgan reeled off a 44-yard run on first down, getting inside Kilgore’s 10-yard-line, and then punching it in two plays later on an 8-yard run.
Morgan and a couple of offensive teammates had a big night: 169 yards and two touchdowns rushing for Morgan. PT quarterback Dakylan Johnson threw for four touchdowns, three to Jonathon Fuller and one to Raimone Flournoy.
Kilgore had been ranked fifth in the state in the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Class 4A poll, but will likely drop a bit after the loss, the first in the career of coach Clint Fuller here at KHS.
Kilgore trailed 21-10 at the half, but got a 40-yard field goal from Chris Baldazo to get within eight, 21-13, with 10:03 left in the third. The Bulldogs’ defense forced a pair of incomplete passes, finally getting a rush on Johnson.
Kilgore got the ball back, and after a hit on Van Zandt put the ball at Pine Tree’s 33, Van Zandt struck back, a 33-yard beautiful pass to Roney, who hauled it in for the touchdown.
The Pirates struck right back, a 55-yard pass to Jonathon Fuller for another score. Fuller dodged a pair of tackles and scampered into the end zone, giving the Pirates a 28-19 lead with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Pine Tree’s attempt at an onside kick resulted in a re-kick (they were offsides), and the teams traded possessions into the fourth quarter, KHS still trailing 28-19, and with a shaken-up Alex Cervantes — the Bulldogs’ center — trying to run it off on the sidelines.
But the Pirates got the ball back, milking the clock behind the running of Morgan, who picked up a key first down on a fourth-and-2 play with about six minutes left.
The game-clincher though, was the 34-yard touchdown from Johnson to Flournoy, giving PT a 35-19 lead with 4:43 left. It didn’t finish Kilgore — Roney caught the 24-yard touchdown pass from Van Zandt with 2:41 left to get Kilgore closer, with Jacob Caruthers catching the two-point conversion. That gave KHS a fighting chance, down a touchdown and a conversion (35-27) with 2:41 left.
Pine Tree got onto the scoreboard first: Fuller hauled in a 48-yard pass from Johnson, and took it the distance for the first score of the game, a 7-0 PT lead with 10:03 left in the first quarter.
Kilgore answered, but with a field goal, not a touchdown. Baldazo, whose misses don’t happen much, was good on this one, a 41-yarder with 6:15 left in the quarter. The key plays on the drive: a 13-yard pass to P.J. Wiley and a 15-yard run by Davin Rider. A false start and a sack put the Ragin’ Red in a hole, but Baldazo was able to put three points on the board, leaving KHS trailing 7-3.
The Pirates’ offense clicking, it didn’t take them long to answer, with another seven. And it was Fuller again, a 10-yard pass from Johnson that he took 30, most of it down his own sideline, and scored, giving PT a 14-7 lead with 4:59 left in the quarter.
A pair of personal fouls on the Pirates aided Kilgore on its next drive: a roughing-the-kicker penalty for hitting Kilgore punter Jose Jaime, and then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of a run by Rider. Quarterback Da’Marion Van Zandt picked up a key first down at PT’s 5-yard-line, and then scored two plays later, a 1-yarder, with 48 seconds left in the quarter. Baldazo’s kick got KHS within four, a 14-10 PT lead.
The Pirates put together a 13-play, 67-yard, clock-eating drive that went well into the second quarter and ended with points: Ethan Morgan on a 5-yard run. That gave PT a 21-10 lead.
The Bulldogs caught a break when, after they were forced to punt, the ball bounced off a PT player, and was recovered by Daverion Franklin. Kilgore got the ball at the Pirates’ 40, but couldn’t do a lot with it, three straight incomplete passes by Van Zandt, but he was pressured on all three.
Kilgore’s defense forced the Pirates into another punt, got the ball with 40 seconds left, but with their backs against their own end zone, the ‘Dogs elected to let the first-half clock expire, trailing 21-10.
Congratulations to miss Abby Hattaway (above), who was named the 2021 Kilgore High School homecoming queen on Friday night, prior to the game against Pine Tree. Hattaway, the captain of the Hi-Steppers, is the daughter of Trey and Jennifer Hattaway.