It’s long been said that, in Kilgore, winning is our business, and business is good.
Business was rarely ever better, in fact, than it was here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium on Friday night. And Briant Mumphrey was the head cashier.
After trailing 19-0, thanks to some trickery on Bullard’s part, the Kilgore Bulldogs showed what they were made of, roaring back to outscore the Panthers 56-7 the rest of the game, for a 56-25 win in the regular season finale.
Mumphrey ran for 134 yards and scored four touchdowns. Quarterback Patrick Jackson ran for 76 more, and scored three. Nesba Brown had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. And kicker Elivan Torres was 8-for-8 on extra point attempts.
Bullard’s season ends, but Kilgore moves on, on to the UIL Class 4A playoffs. Coach Mike Wood’s Bulldogs (7-3 this season) will be the second seed from District 9-4A, Division I, and will face Little Cypress-Mauriceville in the first round of the playoffs Thursday night in Lufkin at 7 p.m. at Abe Martin Stadium.
Carthage will go in as the district champion. Kilgore follows as the 2 seed, and then Henderson. Center claims the fourth and final seed.
Kilgore could’ve finished as high as second with a win (which is what happened) or even out of the playoffs, if the right combination had happened, including a loss to Bullard.
And Bullard gave the Bulldogs all they wanted early. Bullard attempted an onside kick to open the game, but Kilgore’s Jacob Lucas fell on it at midfield. Kilgore’s first possession ended with a punt, though, and Bullard drove 85 yards quickly, in an up-tempo offense that yielded points on a 65-yard pass from Cleet Bowman to Ty Crayton.
The Panthers stunned Kilgore with another touchdown, recovering the ball on a shallow kick attempt and miscue by the Bulldogs. Bowman went to work again, getting the Panthers inside Kilgore’s 10-yard-line and then tailback Luke Bowman did the rest, scoring on a 1-yard run. Kilgore linebacker Isaiah Smith wrecked the point after attempt, though, forcing Cleet Bowman (also the holder on kicks) to get up and throw the ball; Kilgore’s defense swarmed Will McCowin, though, and left the score at 13-0.
Bullard, with apparently no confidence in its defense at all, incredibly attempted another onside kick and officials ruled the Panthers got it, although it appeared the ball didn’t travel the required 10 yards.
Still, the Panthers scored yet again, this time on a 27-yard pass to Crayton. A stunned Kilgore crowd looked on as Smith blocked the extra point, but the Ragin’ Red trailed, shockingly, 19-0.
And that was it for Bullard.
Triston Shaffer recovered yet another onside kick attempt (there would be another later), and Kilgore went to work. Jackson guided the offense downfield, runs by he, Mumphrey, Jaiden Zackery and then passes to Jonathan Shepherd. Shepherd’s final catch on the drive got the Bulldogs inside Bullard’s 10, and four plays later, Mumphrey scored a 1-yard touchdown.
Kilgore’s defense forced Bullard to punt on the Panthers’ next drive, and then the crowd found out why Bullard kept trying onside kicks: Kilgore’s running game ran through Bullard like wind through a screen door.
Kilgore got the ball at midfield, and scored in seven plays, Mumphrey again, this time on a 3-yard run. Kilgore trailed just 19-14.
Bullard’s offense sputtered again on its next drive, and they were forced to punt. And that led to Kilgore points, too, a 9-yard touchdown run by Jackson that gave Kilgore the lead for good, 21-19.
In the third quarter, Bullard fumbled the ball away at its own 14, and Kilgore scored in four plays, Mumphrey on a 3-yard run.
Bullard’s final score of the night came on a 50-yard pass to Crayton, but Lucas recovered the Panthers’ fifth onside kick attempt of the night, and that was it, all Kilgore from there.
Mumphrey scored on a 42-yard run; Brown scored on a 60-yard punt return; Jackson scored on a 33-yard run; and then Jackson scored again in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard run.
The defense had plays throughout. Tyreik Mumphrey had a fumble recovery; Deundre Blanton and Byron Templeton each had a sack; and Nick Hooper had an interception.
Bowman finished 13-of-23 for 209 yards and three touchdowns for Bullard. Crayton had six catches for 142 yards and two scores. Luke Bowman led Bullard with 41 rushing yards.
In addition to Mumphrey and Jackson’s numbers, Shepherd had four catches for 37 yards, and Ja’Vorie Hamilton had 34 yards rushing.
SUBVARSITY: Kilgore’s junior varsity and freshmen teams both finished their seasons strong, and the JV won their version of the District 9-4A championship.
Kilgore outlasted Bullard in a high-scorer, 42-34, and went 4-1 in district to claim the title. Coach Jay Dean’s JV ‘Dogs went 7-2 on the season overall (Center did not have a JV team).
Kaden Thrower had a touchdown pass to Billy Bell. Dean said running backs Kenneth Lacy and Zack Williams played well. Sam Witt had a couple of catches, and Patrick Whittington had a big night, as well, Dean noted.
Defensively, Kentravious Anderson and Peyton Wallace combined for a couple of sacks. Chris Ballard and Bobby Owens had key stops both on defense and on special teams.
Kilgore’s freshmen won their final game, too, taking down Bullard right before the JV game, 35-14.
Trey Epps had another big game: he scored four touchdowns. A.J. Smith added another, and had an interception. The defensive line, anchored by Kaden Kenney, Brantley Propes, Jeff Jones and Blaine McNeece, all played well, coach Robert Cooley said, all year, in fact. Cooley also commended the offensive line, led by Devin Coleman, Hunter Lewis, Juan Vega, Christian Estrella and Josh Kennel.
Kilgore finished with an 8-2 record, losing two games late to Nacogdoches (in the season opener) and to Carthage.