KILGORE -- There was no official title won on the R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium turf in Kilgore on Friday night, but Kilgore's win over Carthage was heard around the district, to be certain.

Kilgore got three touchdowns from senior tailback Ja'Quorius Smith, took an early lead, played solid defense and knocked off Carthage, 31-28. Kilgore is 2-0 in Class 4A's District 9, Division I, and will visit Chapel Hill next Friday.

Carthage (4-3 overall, 1-1 in district play) will host Brownsboro.

Kilgore's Patrick Jackson attempts a pass downfield during the Bulldogs' 31-28 home win over Carthage on Friday night. (Trey Bell, ETSN.fm)

Kilgore's win -- its fifth straight -- wasn't without a dramatic ending.

Carthage quarterback Jarod Blissett trailed by 10, 31-21, with 4:20 left, and his offense at the Kilgore 47-yard-line. Blissett threw a big-time scare into the Kilgore crowd, completing a 30-yard pass over the middle, then a 16-yard pass to Jakeldric Jackson to the goal line. Blissett took it into the end zone himself on the next play, bringing his team within three points with 3:46 remaining.

To make matters worse for Kilgore, the Bulldogs had a chance to seal the game, but couldn't. Quarterback Patrick Jackson, who led his team to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter, was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-inches late in the contest, giving Carthage one more chance.

But Blissett and his version of Bulldogs couldn't complete the comeback. He was pressured by Kilgore's defensive front and threw an incomplete pass on first down from midfield. On second down, he completed a pass to Jackson, but for just a 7-yard gain. His final two passes weren't caught, allowing Kilgore to take over on downs and run out the remainder of the clock, a little more than a minute.

Kilgore hit Carthage with a pair of body blows early. It scored with 6:40 left in the opening quarter on an 8-yard pass from Jackson to Jesus Avalos. Carthage's first drive ended in disaster when Blissett was intercepted by Kilgore's Mateo Meraz on Carthage's very first play from scrimmage.

Carthage's Jakeldric Jackson runs upfield during his team's 31-28 loss at Kilgore on Friday night. (Trey Bell, ETSN.fm)

Kilgore took over at Carthage's 41-yard-line after the turnover, and scored in two plays. Jackson completed a pass to Jonathan Shepherd for an 11-yard gain, and on second down, Smith scored on a 30-yard run.

Carthage tied the game with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns: one to Dee Bowens with 6:37 left in the half (after Blissett converted a fourth-and-1 at his own 27 on the drive), and then the game-tying score, a 2-yard run by Ravodney Hardy with 1:33 remaining.

Kilgore stole the momentum just before halftime when Christian Galvan hit a 46-yard field goal, giving his team a 17-14 lead at the break.

Carthage took what would be its only lead of the game on the first drive of the third quarter. The score was a 25-yard pass from Blissett to Jakeldric Jackson and put Carthage in front briefly, 21-17.

Kilgore took the lead back, and for good, on its next drive, a steady diet of Kilgore running game. Smith did the honors from 2 yards out, giving Kilgore the 24-21 advantage with a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter. A third Smith touchdown with 10 minutes remaining in the game put Kilgore in front, 31-21.

Although Kilgore's defense held Carthage's running game in check, Blissett finished 21-of-33 for 285 yards two touchdowns and the interception. Smith had the three touchdowns for Kilgore and finished with 135 yards. Patrick Jackson went 6-of-11 for 56 yards and the score to Avalos, and also ran for 101 yards.

Kilgore's Chris Toombs (11) is brought down by Carthage's Mykel Gates during their game Friday night in Kilgore. (Trey Bell, ETSN.fm)