There's never such a thing as an easy schedule if you play football in Kilgore.

Whether it's in non-district or district, the Bulldogs have been in a position where they are going to face a top-flight team almost every week. It doesn't have to be the case in non-district -- coach Mike Wood could schedule pretty much anyone he wants to -- but when you have the District of Doom on your slate every year, you've got to be ready for it.

So despite entering District 9-4A Division I with a 1-3 record, Kilgore got itself ready. And now the Bulldogs are a much-needed 2-0 going into Friday night's game against No. 8 Carthage.

"I think when you play the caliber of teams in non-district like we do with Nacogdoches, Texas High and Gladewater, it readies your team for this part of the season," Wood said. "We weren't as successful in a few of those games but it showed what we needed to get better at to compete at this level."

Some might consider it crazy to put together a schedule like that when you have the district opponents Kilgore does, but Wood said he wouldn't have it any other way than to be in the toughest district in Texas.

"Personally, I think it's great. There's no better football in East Texas, especially at our level," Wood said. "If you're going to play this game you want to play against the best. The best teams out of our district get into the playoffs and usually make long runs and play for state championships. Some people make a statement that four teams is too many to take in the playoffs, but with the district we're in there are going to be four very good teams who make the playoffs."

No one likes losing, and no one especially likes losing a game 44-0. But that was the case for Kilgore against Class 5A power Texas High in Week 4 before the Bulldogs entered district play. Kilgore responded, however, beating Palestine (33-20) and Chapel Hill (36-7) to start district.

That kind of start is crucial in this district -- Kilgore has Carthage this week and No. 6 Henderson next week before its bye week. Then the Bulldogs finish the season against Center and Bullard. For now at least, the Bulldogs are in the driver's seat to make the playoffs.

"I think we've played well enough the last two weeks to be 2-0, but I think this week and next week are going to decide some things," Wood said. "We are definitely going to have to play our best football this week against Carthage and next week against Henderson to win those games."

Offensively, a lot of pressure is going to lie on the Kilgore running game against Carthage and Henderson. Both teams own dynamic offenses, so winning time of possession is key for Kilgore. Quarterback Buddy Jackson is leading the charge for what as usual is a strong running game.

Jackson is coming off a 170-yard rushing performance against Chapel Hill last week and 141 the week before against Palestine. Melek Hamilton rushed for 125 yards in the district opener against Palestine.

"There's never any doubt that the best defense is a good offense," Wood said. "We have to be able to run the football, move the chains and keep those offensive weapons they have on the sidelines. You don't win football games when your defense is on the field all game."

Wood said his offensive line will have to play its best game of the season Friday night despite suffering some injuries.

"Hopefully we can get some of those kids back this week, because that's the key for us offensively," Wood added. "If we can get that group operating and get some consistency there, that will open up some other things for us."