By MITCH LUCAS
All endings can't be happy, and this one wasn't.
Ashley Castillo was named Kilgore High School's 2018 homecoming queen Friday night here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, but sweet turned sour in the second half, as Pittsburg slipped past the Bulldogs, 25-19, in the first-ever meeting between the two programs in football, and the final non-district game of the season for KHS.
Kilgore slips to 1-4 on the season, and has an open date next week, perhaps good timing for a Ragin' Red team that begins its District 10-4A, Division I schedule on Oct. 12 at Chapel Hill.
The Bulldogs can take heart: they did have a good win over Texas High a week ago, and non-district games, of course, don't have any bearing on making the playoffs. There have been teams that didn't do well in non-district play that went on to turn things around – Atlanta even went 1-4 in 2003, then beat Marlin for the 3A state championship.
Kilgore's first half was good, well-played, solid football. The Bulldogs' defense forced Pittsburg to turn the ball over on downs on their first drive, and then Kilgore scored a touchdown to cap its own initial drive of the game.
The Bulldogs, behind the offensive line that included Calvin Woodside, C.J. Brown, Brayden Johnson, Logan Greenberg, Cody Walls and tight ends Jacob Stone and Wylie Macy, put together an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Tray Epps running in for a 10-yard score. Elivan Torres hit the extra point, and Kilgore led 7-0 with 1:11 left in the first quarter.
Kaden Kenney and Ken Anderson combined for a sack on Pittsburg quarterback Jaylon Jimmerson on the next drive and then Kilgore's Donovan Adkins blocked the ensuing punt, his first of a few blocked kicks by the Bulldogs in the game. A sack would take Kilgore out of field goal range, ultimately, and the teams traded punts, including some good pooch-kick punts by KHS quarterback Gus Witt that pinned the Pirates down.
Torres hit a 29-yard field goal for Kilgore as the first-half buzzer sounded, leaving the Bulldogs up 10-0 at the half.
Kilgore's Nesba Brown gave the Bulldogs a good return to open the second half, and a penalty allowed Kilgore to start at Pittsburg's 30-yard-line. Witt pooch-punted again, and the Pirates took over at their own 15. Adkins would block another punt, coming around the edge, and this one scooted out of the end zone for a safety – Kilgore led, 12-0.
That's when things changed.
On Pittsburg's next possession, the Pirates were slowly, almost sleepily, moving the ball downfield when Jimmerson dropped back and threw to teammate Keithlen Griffin, a long ball that Griffin hauled in around Kilgore's 15-yard-line, and then managed to score. The point after was good, one of few kicks by the Pirates Friday that was successful, and Pittsburg trailed 12-7 with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
Jimmerson, who is a jack-of-all-trades for the Pirates, pulled out another one on Kilgore's next possession. When Pittsburg forced a punt, Jimmerson grabbed it off the one-hop inside his own 20. He weaved quickly through Kilgore defenders and got loose for a touchdown, the go-ahead score. Damien Parker blocked the kick, but the Bulldogs now trailed, 13-12, with 11:37 left in the game.
Kilgore's A.J. Smith had a good return of his own to set the Bulldogs up in Pittsburg territory, but on first down, Kilgore fumbled the ball back to Pittsburg. The Pirates turned the ball over on the drive – Deiontrae Wheat got Kilgore's first interception of the year – but a Kilgore penalty forced the ‘Dogs to take over at their own 4.
They would eventually end up punting – Pittsburg milked some clock, and running back Desmond Allen scored on a 7-yard drive with just over a minute and a half remaining.
Kilgore wouldn't give up, but didn't have enough time. Witt drove the Bulldogs downfield quickly, and they scored on a 16-yard pass from Witt to Nick Hooper with 32 seconds left. But the onside kick attempt failed. Pittsburg got the ball, and ran out the rest of the clock.
For the Pirates (3-2), Jimmerson finished 13-of-19 for 148 yards, the touchdown to Griffen and the interception by Wheat. Allen was their leading rusher but had a pedestrian night – 13 carries for 53 yards and two scores.
Kilgore's rushing game that was so good in Texarkana couldn't get rolling against Pittsburg. Tray Epps led Kilgore with 67 yards on 13 carries. Kennieth Lacy had 47 on 14 carries. Witt went 8-of-13 for 108 yards and the touchdown to Hooper. Hooper had four catches for 52 yards, including the score. Lacy had a catch for 41 yards; Wheat, Daniel Sifford and Epps each had a catch, as well.
In the subvarsity games on Thursday night, both Kilgore teams – freshmen and junior varsity – went to Pittsburg and came out unscathed, with both teams moving to 5-0 on the season as the open date hits.
Kilgore's freshmen and JV will be off next Thursday night, then host Chapel Hill on Thursday, Oct. 11.
Coach Robert Cooley's freshmen team beat the Pirates, 28-16. Jermaine Roney put on a show, Cooley said – Roney scored three times. Daylon Branham scored on a 20-yard touchdown. The defense, Cooley pointed out, had a goal-line stop on Pittsburg at the 1-yard-line.
The JV, coached by Jay Dean, got out with a 12-8 win. Dean complimented his defense for holding the Pirates to eight points. Dalton McElyea scored on a quarterback sneak and Gavin Smith also scored.