Thanks to COVID-19, most of the early portion of 2020’s high school sports were canceled.
In fact, thanks to COVID-19, “canceled” fits pretty much everything, a lot of it in everyday life. But the second half of 2020? That went much, much better.
When Kilgore ISD went remote in the springtime to avoid potential spreading of the global pandemic, as did most schools in the U.S., that, of course, put a halt to KHS sports. Basketball did get to finish its season, but baseball and softball had barely gotten started when they were all put on hold, then ultimately canceled. Soccer made it to the end of its regular season, and was on the cusp of playoffs, when it was halted.
Track, golf and spring tennis also didn’t have a conclusion, either, thanks to the pandemic.
But August came and brought optimism, even if COVID was still ongoing, and some students and faculty were affected – in-person classes resumed, and so did football, volleyball and cross country. Kilgore College went along with the NJCAA and moved its football season to spring, 2021, and shortened its basketball season, calling off the fall portion.
Kilgore volleyball returned to the playoffs; the boys cross country team made it all the way to the UIL state meet in Round Rock; and KHS football got to the regional final, just two games away from playing for the state championship.
It was a largely-satisfying end to the year, with (hopefully) good things to come in what looks to be a very busy spring 2021.
Kilgore High School’s boys got back to business in the 2019-20 season, wrapping their regular year by getting into the playoffs, in spite of a loss to Henderson in the regular season finale. Kilgore beat Liberty Eylau in the first round of the UIL 4A playoffs, but lost to Quinlan Ford in the second round.
The Lady ‘Dogs got into the playoffs once again for coach Trushundra McGill, but lost to Pleasant Grove in a first-round game.
Since then, of course, basketball has resumed with the 2020-21 season, and both teams have just started district play (see our story today).
Sabine’s Lady Cardinals won their final six games of the 2019-20 season, then beat Elysian Fields in the first round of the 3A playoffs before falling to Mount Pleasant-Chapel Hill. The Cardinals won their final four games of the regular season, before losing to Tatum in the first round of the playoffs.
Both Kilgore College teams finished up their seasons in the Region XIV Conference tournament. Coach Brian Hoberecht’s Rangers lost to Lee College, 93-87, and finished the year with a 21-9 record; the Lady Rangers also lost in the tournament’s first round, falling to Tyler in a 77-76 battle. The Lady Rangers wound up 22-9.
They didn’t play in the fall, and are both set to begin the 2021 season on Jan. 20: the men will play Trinity Valley in Athens, and the Lady Rangers will play Grayson College here at Masters Gymnasium.
Coach Jason Maroney’s Bulldogs had a great fall 2019 season, winning the fall / team tennis district championship, then advancing to the third round of the playoffs. But spring season – the more individually-oriented season, in which Kilgore normally sends doubles teams to the state tournament – was cut short in mid-March due to COVID, and they didn’t quite get to the district tournament.
This fall, Kilgore bounced back, getting into the team tennis playoffs. They lost to Lindale there, in the second round, after beating Atlanta in round one.
Kilgore tennis starts its spring season soon.
After a huge season in 2019, finishing as the No. 2 seed in the district and almost capturing a district title, Kilgore fell back to the pack just a bit in 2020, and unfortunately in front of limited crowds thanks to COVID.
Kilgore did reach the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in fall, 2020, and lost to Gilmer in Longview in the first round. The Lady Bulldogs will lose a big group of talented seniors, but hope a talented younger cast, including the returning Skye Cotton and Ashton Vallery, who will both be seniors.
Sabine followed 2019 – its winningest single-season ever – with another big year in 2020, winning 28 matchups, and losing only two: an early-season loss to 2A power Beckville, and then a third-round playoff loss to Gunter, in coach Tara Wait’s first season in Liberty City.
Aubree McCann, who was just announced as a Texas Girls Coaches Association all-state player, is among the Lady Cardinals’ returnees next year.
Masks were added to the cross country attire this fall, and the schedules were scaled back a bit, both due to COVID. But Kilgore’s cross country success kept its pace. The Bulldogs have sent several to the state meet in recent years, after about a 30-year drought. That included a trip by the KHS girls team a couple of seasons ago.
And this time, for the first time since the late 1970s teams, Kilgore’s boys made the trek to Old Settlers Park in Round Rock as a team, for the UIL Class 4A state meet. The Bulldogs did very well, finishing fifth overall as a team, led by senior AB Herrera, in place 25, in 16 minutes, 40. 80 seconds. Teammate Austin Bain, Kilgore’s only other senior, finished in 16:43.26.
Coach Mike Wood’s Ragin’ Red kicked the doldrums of a 4-7 season in 2018 and a 5-6 season in ’19 to the curb. The Bulldogs blew those both out of the water with a nice season in 2020, getting back to Kilgore football – they finished second in District 9-4A, then won three playoff games (Splendora, El Campo and Huffman-Hargrave) before bowing out in round four to eventual state-finalist Lindale, two rounds shy of the UIL Class 4A Division I state title game.
Records fell right and left along the way, in particular to quarterback Dalton McElyea, who now holds almost all of Kilgore’s single-season passing marks, and to running back Tray Epps, who now holds the single-game records for yards (401) and touchdowns (six). The Ragin’ Red finished with a 10-4 record.
The Bulldogs will be feted during the annual football banquet, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 14, at the KHS cafeteria this year. That night, in addition to the special team awards that will be presented, the very first Buddy Humphrey/Kilgore News Herald Mr. Football will be awarded.
West Rusk also had a good season, getting to the third round of the UIL 3A, Division II playoffs. The Raiders beat Chisum (Paris) and Hughes Springs before running into a good Waskom team in round three. West Rusk finished up 8-4.