KILGORE – A game that was back-and-forth – and sometimes for all the wrong reasons – finally went in the Kilgore Bulldogs’ favor in its season opener here against Nacogdoches.
Kilgore allowed a punt return for a touchdown of over 90 yards, fumbled a few times and lost three, but overcame that to beat the Dragons, 35-21, on Friday.
Kilgore quarterback Patrick Jackson ran for three touchdowns. Javorie Hamilton added another, and defensive back Deiontrae Wheat scored on a pick-six.
The Bulldogs visit Gladewater next week. Nacogdoches, which lost to Kilgore for the first time in four meetings, visits 6A’s Lufkin.
Nac’s Jed Morgan burned Kilgore on a 94-yard punt return to give the Dragons an early 7-0 lead. Kilgore hit back immediately, with Jackson running it in from 14 yards out to cap a seven-play, 75-yard drive.
The Dragons kept one drive alive when a live ball on a punt return hit a Kilgore player, and Nac recovered. That led to nothing, but a Kilgore fumble moments later did end in points for the Dragons, a 23-yard pass from Jake Smith to James Sowards. That put Nac up, 14-7.
The Bulldogs tied the game again in the second quarter, a 1-yard run by Hamilton that was set up on an 18-yard pass play from Jackson to wide receiver Jonathan Shepherd, a verbal commit to Oklahoma State. Kilgore kicker Elivan Torres hit the tying extra point. He didn’t miss one all night (5-for-5).
In the third quarter, Nac missed out on a scoring opportunity when a 39-yard field goal attempt by Chris Campos-Gonzalez hit the crossbar. Wheat’s pick-six moments later from about 25 yards out put Kilgore in front for the first time in the game, 21-14, but Nac would tie it again with a minute left in the third quarter.
Nac tailback Isaiah Smith appeared to be going into the end zone, but fumbled the ball. In the scrum, officials ruled the Dragons had recovered for a touchdown. Campos-Gonzalez hit the extra point to tie things yet again, this time at 21-all.
But Kilgore had the final say. Nick Hooper recovered from bobbling the ball on the kickoff to return it to midfield, and then two plays later, Jackson scored on a 34-yard run. Another Jackson touchdown with 5:43 left from 41 yards out gave the Bulldogs a two-touchdown lead Nac couldn’t overcome.