Kilgore-Stafford GTW

Kilgore’s Davin Rider (9, center) outruns everyone to the end zone last Friday during the Bulldogs’ win over Stafford in Houston. This week, it’s the third round of the playoffs for the Ragin’ Red (11-1), who will take on a familiar foe: Chapel Hill (9-3), an 8 p.m. kickoff at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

Déjà vu all over again?

District 9-4A Division I champion Kilgore (11-1) faces district rival Chapel Hill (9-3) Friday night at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler, an 8 p.m. kickoff there for this University Interscholastic League (UIL) Class 4A Division I Regional (third round) playoff. Both teams, of course, are the Bulldogs.

This note: unfortunately, because of the later start time, the story won’t be in this Saturday’s print edition of the News Herald. Coverage, including photos from Dennis Jacobs and maybe even Alex’s Art, will be online at kilgorenewsherald.com, in the sports section, and updated as needed afterward.

A few particulars for anyone planning to go to the game:

  • Kilgore is the home team, and Kilgore fans will enter at Gate 3; Chapel Hill fans will enter at Gate 7. Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. Kilgore fans are attempting a red-out: if you have red, wear it to Friday’s game.
  • Tickets are sold online only, at $6 each. Go online to this link:
  • . Scroll down past Gilmer-Van (the game earlier that day) and an option to purchase Kilgore-Chapel Hill tickets is there.
  • Remember some renovations are being done at the Rose Stadium area, and parking is altered.

Anyone who can’t come to the game can watch streaming broadcasts online, but for your protection, get links only from Kilgore ISD Facebook or Kilgore High School Facebook pages. Also, the Ragin’ Red Broadcasting team, which has called KHS football games on radio for 40 seasons and online for the last decade-plus, will be on hand as well: KDOK radio, 105.3-FM and kdokradio.com on the web.

Here’s something different: the KHS football program and booster club have invited the community to come out Thanksgiving night to R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium at 6:30 p.m. for a community open practice. Hot chocolate will be on hand, and a look at Kilgore’s final walk-through before the game.

Coach Clint Fuller’s Ragin’ Red defeated Chapel Hill earlier this season, back on Oct. 15 (41-20) at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

Since Kilgore beat Chapel Hill, the blue-and-yellow Bulldogs, coached by Jeff Riordan, have won four straight games, including a first-round playoff victory over Vidor, and then last weekend’s 51-27 second-round playoff win over Brazosport at New Caney’s Porter Randall Reed Stadium.

In that game, the freshman phenom quarterback Demetrius Brisbon Jr. went 6-of-13 for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and another player, a receiver named Llonzo McGregor, completed a 33-yard pass to Ahstin Watkins for a score.

Brisbon didn’t start the season at quarterback, but took over for Tyler Jones, a junior. Brisbon has played in every game, though, and has completed 51-of-95 passes for 812 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s rushed for 928 yards and scored nine times, and as a team, Chapel Hill has rushed for 2,779 yards and 32 touchdowns, averaging 7 1/2 yards a carry.

Chapel Hill was more impressive on its ground game: 279 yards and three scores. Ricky Stewart, another freshman, ran for 101 yards and a score on 11 carries to lead the effort; Tyson Berry ran for 91 yards on just two carries, and Brisbon had 50 yards and a score on eight carries.

Defensively for Chapel Hill, Samari Willis had a sack, and Solomon Macfoy and Izaya Brooks each had an interception.

Kilgore had a balanced attack in 2020 that took the Bulldogs deep into the playoffs, four rounds, in fact. That offensive balance has continued this season, with quarterback Da’Marion Van Zandt, a junior in his first year as a starter, a group of talented receivers, an offensive line that has gelled well along the way, and a thunder-and-lightning running game that features bulldozer Davin Rider and scat-back Isaiah Ross.

Throw in a good heaping portion of opportunistic defensive players, a good kicking game and a first-year head coach looking to bring a title to Kilgore this very season, and it’s a recipe that has worked very well for the Ragin’ Red in 2021.

McCabe Wheeler, Jared Rich, Justin Flores, Alex Cervantes and Taylor Hill have proven to be a good-sized wall in front of Van Zandt, and good hole-openers for Rider, Ross and Matthew Hardy to break through. The pass protection has largely been good, as well, and Kilgore has 4,995 total yards this season – 3,027 yards on the ground.

Rider, a Built Ford Tough winner a few weeks ago, has been a hard man to tackle. The senior has 2,039 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on 201 carries this season, and averages 10.1 yards a carry. Ross has 682 yards and eight touchdowns on 85 carries (8 yards a carry) and Hardy, 279 yards and a score on 46 carries (6 yards a carry). Van Zandt has five rushing touchdowns to his credit this year, and Devin Walker has one.

On the season, Van Zandt has completed 114-of-192 passes (59 percent) for 1,959 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. Jermaine Roney has been the main target, and justifiably so: 39 catches for 672 yards this season, 10 touchdowns and only one lost fumble. Roney is the current Chick-Fil-A / Kilgore News Herald player of the week, after a 50-yard touchdown and two onside kick recoveries in the Bulldogs’ win over Stafford last week at Sheldon ISD Stadium in Houston.

Other leading receivers for Kilgore include Dadrian Franklin (17 catches for 215 yards and two scores, including a 23-yarder last week), Corey Rider (18 catches, 405 yards, five touchdowns), P.J. Wiley (12 catches, 175 yards, two TDs) and Matthew Tyeskie (14 catches, 161 yards).

The Bulldogs have a very experienced kicker in Chris Baldazo, who missed a 50-yarder last week, but has a 45-yarder to his credit this year. He’s 4-of-9 in field goal attempts, and 60-of-65 in extra point attempts this season.

Punter Jose Jaime is averaging 37 yards a kick, and has a long of 45 yards in 2021.

These days, it seems like offenses are wide open, more difficult to stop, but even still, Kilgore manages to play good defense, even if there are some shootout games, like Kilgore-Lindale.

Over the season, Kilgore has allowed 4, 133 yards, and that’s about 344 a game. They’ve given up 2,110 rushing yards this year, and 2,023 passing yards. They’re forced 37 three-and-outs – forcing opponents to punt after an unsuccessful third-down attempt.

The Bulldogs have 20 sacks, and 32 quarterback hurries: the prime guys in that department are Alex Chavez, who has 13 hurries and had a sack with less than a minute left against Stafford that really put the Spartans in a hole of which they couldn’t climb out; Zaelen Matthews, who has eight hurries; Jackson Harris, who has seven; Kendall Dunn and Peyton Christian, each with two; and Demontrell Candie and Isaiah Ross, each with one. Chavez and Chris McGhee lead the team in sacks, with three each; Matthews has 2 1/2 and Harris has two. All of those players are in the front seven of Kilgore’s defense.

Kilgore has collected 21 turnovers this season: 10 interceptions, and 11 fumble recoveries. Chris Ervin has been integrally involved in both: Chris Ervin, who not only leads the team in tackles (95), but also has three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. In fact, he’s got three forced fumbles as well, and that leads the team – McGhee has two, as does P.J. Wiley.

Davin Rider and Zaylon Stoker also each have two interceptions; Corey Rider, Daverion Franklin, Dadrian Franklin, and Matthew Tyeskie each have one.

Roney has become very adept at blocking kicks: he’s got four on the season, including one that he returned for two points in the first-round playoff win over Huffman-Hargrave at Crockett.

Ervin also leads the team in tackles for loss (eight), with Christian (six), Chavez (four) and McGhee (three) not far behind.

The Kilgore-Chapel Hill winner will move on to the quarterfinals to face either El Campo (11-1), a frequent Kilgore playoff opponent who just knocked Lindale out of the playoffs, or Little Cypress-Mauriceville (10-2). Those two meet Friday at 6 p.m. at Shenandoah Woodforest Bank Stadium.

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