Kilgore Runs Past Stephenville, 44-6, to Set Up All-East Texas State Title Game Against Carthage
CORSICANA -- They began the season against one another, and now East Texas powerhouses Carthage and Kilgore will conclude the year versus each other with a state championship on the line.
Kilgore dominated defending state champion Stephenville, 44-6, on a windy Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium one day after Carthage disposed of La Grange to set up a Class 3A Division I state final that will be decided by a pair of former Class 4A district rivals, which scrimmaged each other back in August.
The all-East Texas title game, the second in four years, will kickoff at noon Friday from Arlington's AT&T Stadium -- the site of Henderson's 28-21 victory over Chapel Hill in the 2010 3A D-I final.
"I just think it says volumes about the amount of talent there is in East Texas," said Kilgore coach Mike Wood after the win. "We're glad to be there. It'll be great for East Texas."
Saturday's semifinal was never in doubt for Kilgore (14-0), thanks to a punishing rushing attack that churned out 478 yards and a ferocious defense that limited a high-powered Stephenville (12-2) offense to just six points and 265 yards below its season average.
"I'm just proud of this football team and what they've accomplished this year," Wood said. "They set some high goals to start this year and all they've done is go out and win football games. And they deserve to get to play for a state championship."
Junior running back Kevrin Justice led the ground assault with 213 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. His 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter got the scoring started, his 53-yard burst opened up a 27-point lead in the second and his 58-yard jaunt late in the third capped a 95-yard scoring drive and effectively put the game out of reach.
"We knew we were going to have to run the football with a lot of heavy wind," Justice said. "We just did what Kilgore does. The offensive line was doing a great job, the receivers were doing a great job. "
Senior running back Davieonta "JuJu" Brown rushed for 129 yards on 19 carries, which included a 16-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation point on a most dominant performance.
Stephenville, which entered Saturday averaging 47 points per game, never found its rhythm offensively. Junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham, one of the nation's premier recruits in the 2015 class, threw for just 51 yards on 6-of-17 passing and was held to minus-4 yards rushing. The 6-3, 190-pound dual-threat signal caller, hampered by a hamstring injury and a steady wind throughout, had accounted for 3,639 yards and 46 touchdowns coming into the game.
"The kids did a great job this week taking in the game plan and (executing) it out there," Wood said of his team's defensive effort. "Certainly, the weather played in our favor a little bit. You don't want to rush (Stidham) too hard, you don't want to flush him. So we had to stay in our lanes and they did a good job with that today."
Kilgore junior linebacker Kris Haynes had a sack, while senior lineman LaDarrin Anthony and junior linemate Jacobe Wafer combined on another. Senior cornerback Jeffery Sanders was responsible for the game's only turnover when he stepped in front of a Stidham pass for an interception, which led to a Kilgore touchdown late in the first half.
"Intensity in practice (was key)," said Kilgore senior safety Jake Brantley, who helped the Bulldogs avenge last season's 42-32 semifinal loss to Stephenville. "That was the last thing we wanted, is to walk off this field like we did last year. Everybody in practice was just flying around to the football, and we were really prepared for this game."
Kilgore senior receiver Aaron Foy had 136 yards of total offense on only four touches. He carried the ball three times for 89 yards and caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Benny Colbert that gave Kilgore a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Colbert was 2-of-3 for the day for 66 yards and added 36 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Stephenville was led by freshman running back Kaegun Williams, who ran for 126 yards and the Yellow Jackets' only touchdown -- a 10-yard score that cut Kilgore's lead to 27-6 late in the first half. Williams managed just four yards after halftime as Stephenville could only muster 55 total yards in the second half.
"Outstanding defense," Colbert said. "They stayed disciplined, everybody did their job."
Foy's 41-yard reverse around the right edge set up Justice's 1-yard touchdown as Kilgore built a 7-0 lead with 6:45 showing in the first quarter. Stephenville picked up a pair of first downs on its next series, but sacks on first and third down forced a punt that traveled just 15 yards into the wind.
On the third play of the ensuing possession, Colbert faked the handoff and connected with a wide-open Foy down the middle of the field for a 47-yard score, which gave the Bulldogs a 14-point cushion with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter.
Williams had runs of 14, 10 and 15 yards to help Stephenville advance deep into Kilgore territory on its next series, but Kilgore's defense held and forced a Luis Garcia 40-yard field goal attempt, which was no good.
Each team then traded three-and-outs, before Kilgore took possession at its own 20 with 7:36 remaining until halftime. A Justice 27-yard run, followed by a 28-yard sprint by Brown on the very next play set up Kilgore with a first-and-goal at the 10. Fullback Jack Johnston's 6-yard touchdown run on third down opened up a 21-0 lead at the 3:53 mark of the second quarter.
Sanders' interception on Stephenville's ensuing possession gave the ball back to Kilgore at its own 38 with 3:26 showing on the clock. On third-and-1, Justice sprung free for a 53-yard score as Kilgore opened up a commanding 27-0 lead.
Stephenville got points right before halftime by feeding the ball to Williams, who accounted for 53 of 68 yards, including a 10-yard run to the end zone that trimmed the deficit to 27-6 with 1:40 to go until the half.
But that was it. In the second half, the Yellow Jackets ran only 17 plays and possessed the ball for just 7:09 as Kilgore remained relentless through the very end.
"Having this game last year as experience, we really leaned on it," Wood said. "We talked a lot about coming out and playing 48 minutes, instead of 24. Give the credit to the kids, they've had a great resolve all year long. They've gone to work, have achieved a lot and we've got one more game to play."
And it ends where it all began -- vs. Carthage.
"That's perfect," Brantley said. "We knew that we were two pretty good teams, and we were kinda hoping that's what would happen."
No. 2 Kilgore 44, No. 5 Stephenville 6
Class 3A Division I State Semifinal
Tiger Stadium, Corsicana
Stephenville 0 6 0 0 -- 6
Kilgore 14 13 7 10 -- 44
KIL--Kevrin Justice 1 run (Christian Galvan kick), 6:45.
KIL--Aaron Foy 47 pass from Benny Colbert (Galvan kick), 3:32.
KIL--Jack Johnston 6 run (Galvan kick), 3:53.
KIL--Justice 53 run (kick failed), 2:30.
STE--Kaegun Williams 10 run (kick failed), 1:40.
KIL--Justice 58 run (Galvan kick), 3:52.
KIL--FG Galvan 24, 8:45.
KIL--Davieonta "JuJu" Brown 16 run (Galvan kick), 2:42.
First Downs 12 17
Total Yards 209 544
Rushes-Yards 30-158 54-478
Passing Yards 51 66
Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-18-1 2-3-0
Punts-Avg. 5-34.8 1-30.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-15 6-70
RUSHING--Stephenville, Kaegun Williams 18-126, Will Brock 6-36, Jarrett Stidham 6-(-4). Kilgore, Kevrin Justice 23-218, Davieonta "JuJu" Brown 19-129, Aaron Foy 3-89, Benny Colbert 8-36, Jack Johnston 1-6.
PASSING--Stephenville, Stidham 6-17-1--51, Williams 0-1-0--0. Kilgore, Colbert 2-3-0--66.
RECEIVING--Stephenville, Williams 2-19, Grayson Sweet 2-13, Brock Morrison 1-13, Ben Martin 1-6. Kilgore, Foy 1-47, Nick Orange 1-19.