LONGVIEW -- It took them nearly 30 years, but Pine Tree finally figured out a way to beat Kilgore High School in a football game.

And the loss keeps Kilgore looking for answers.

Pine Tree scored first here at Pirate Stadium Friday night, got a solid game from quarterback D.J. Freeman and wide receiver J.J. Sparkman, and then held off the Bulldogs in the second half, dealing Kilgore a 38-28 loss.

It was Pine Tree's first win in the series with Kilgore since October, 1990. That year, the Pirates won, 45-16. There was a tie, 17-all, back in 1993. Kilgore still owns the series, 35-10-1.

Kilgore falls to 0-3, the Bulldogs' first 0-3 start since 1995. But that worked out pretty well: that was the first year for coach Mike Vallery, who went on to lead the Bulldogs to several straight wins and a district championship.

Kilgore visits Texas High next week, as the Bulldogs' non-district schedule continues. They'll wrap up non-district play on Sept. 28, here against Pittsburg; that's homecoming at KHS.

The Pirates sent a message early, when, on first and 10 at their own 32-yard-line, Freeman connected with Sparkman, who was running down Kilgore's sideline and made an acrobatic catch. He outran the defense to the end zone, and put PT on the board, 7-0, with four minutes off the game clock.

Kilgore answered right back. Running back Kennieth Lacy scored on a 30-yard run, but it was brought back on a penalty, and then quarterback Gus Witt found receiver Deiontrae Wheat on the sideline for a tiptoe catch for 18 yards to Pine Tree's 19.

Kilgore scored four plays later on a 7-yard run by Lacy. Efraim Mojica tied the game with the extra point.

The Bulldogs got in front on a quick drive with a pair of big plays near the end of the first quarter. Tray Epps got free for a 27-yard run, and then Witt and Wheat hooked up again, this time on a 42-yard pass play across the middle that Wheat took for a score. Mojica's extra point gave Kilgore the 14-7 advantage.

That would be Kilgore's only lead, and it wouldn't last long.

Gabe Adams returned the kick 95 yards for a score, tying the game at 14 and keeping momentum squarely on Pine Tree's sideline, where it seemed to stay for most of the game.

The Pirates got the ball back on the kickoff, recovering the live ball in what really didn't look like an onside kick but functioned as one. Freeman took over at the Kilgore 29 and scored four plays later on a 10-yard run. That gave PT a 21-14 lead. Kilgore tied the game on a 4-yard run by Epps, but Pine Tree again stole the momentum right back on what would be the last real play from scrimmage of the first half. Running back Gabe Nelson gave PT a break with a 40-yard run to Kilgore's 22, and then on the next play, Freeman heaved a pass downfield. Sparkman out-jumped defenders for the touchdown catch. PT led 28-21 at the break.

The Bulldogs couldn't get a lot out of their first offensive possession of the second half, and punted. Freeman, though, got the Pirates back in position and scored again, this time on another run, a 4-yarder. He gave PT a 35-21 lead with 9:46 left in the third.

Kilgore got within a touchdown, 35-28, with 4:22 left in the third on a 7-yard run by Lacy, but the Bulldogs' final, best chance to tie it up ended on a fourth-down incompletion with four minutes left.

Pine Tree's Jose Vasquez booted a 35-yard field goal, and the Pirates took a 10-point lead, 38-28, with just under 2 1/2 minutes remaining. Pine Tree then recovered the kickoff, and ran the remaining time out.

Freeman finished 6-of-11 for 187 yards and two scores, both to Sparkman, who caught four balls for 155 yards' worth. Nelson was the leading rusher, with 124 yards on 24 carries, and Freeman had 50 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

For Kilgore, Witt was 6-of-7 in the first half, but had to air the ball out more in the second. He finished 7-of-18 for 117 yards and the touchdown to Wheat. Wheat had three catches for 71 yards, and the score. Lacy rushed for 90 yards and the two touchdowns on 19 carries, and Epps had 99 yards on nine carries and the touchdown.

Kilgore News Herald


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