CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Region III Area Playoff

Kilgore Bulldogs (7-4)

vs.

Stafford Spartans (8-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday
College Station High School Stadium

 

Coaches

  • Kilgore: Mike Wood
  • Stafford: Ron Counter

 

Last week

 

Next week

  • Winner faces Bridge City or Bay City, 4A Division I Region III semifinal

 

Playmakers

Kilgore

  • QB Buddy Jackson, Jr., 5-9, 155 (66 of 109, 805 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs; 126 carries, 1,130 yards, 9 TDs)
  • RB Melek Hamilton, Sr., 5-6, 160 (210 carries, 1,212 yards, 11 TDs; 5 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD)
  • OL Dylan Scarlett, Sr., 6-2, 285
  • WR Cole Wood, Sr., 6-2, 175 (24 catches, 274 yards, 1 TD)
  • WR Jonathan Shepherd, Jr., 6-3, 180 (15 catches, 231 yards, 3 TDs)
  • DE Demorrea Richardson, Jr., 5-10, 240 (90 tackles, 19 for loss, 8 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked punts)
  • S Mateo Meraz, Sr., 5-10, 180 (61 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked kick)
  • FB/LB Jamal Nobles, Sr., 5-10, 197 (24 carries, 83 yards, 10 TDs; 86 tackles, 6 for loss, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 1 PBU)

 

Stafford

  • WR Hezekiah Jones, Sr., 6-1, 195 (31 catches, 532 yards, 12 TDs; committed to Texas A&M)
  • QB Walter White, Jr., 5-9, 171 (106 of 188, 1,736 yards, 27 TDs, 3 INTs; 81 carries, 473 yards, 10 TDs)
  • RB James Brown, Sr., 5-10, 180 (103 carries, 1,170 yards, 11 TDs; 22 catches, 363 yards, 6 TDs)
  • S Jalen Pitre, Sr., 6-0, 195 (73 tackles, 7 for loss, 1 sack, 6 INTs, 1 PBU, 3 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries)
  • DT Joseph Mayfield, Sr., 5-10, 255 (44 tackles, 12 for loss, 4 sacks, 1 PBU)
  • S David Allison, Sr., 5-8, 165 (70 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PBUs, 1 forced fumble, 4 recoveries, 1 blocked kick)
  • RB Cameron Montgomery Sr., 5-7, 155 (60 carries, 652 yards, 7 TDs; 11 catches, 129 yards)
  • CB Christopher Brantley, Sr., 5-8, 150 (39 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 3 blocked punts)

 

Just the facts

  • Kilgore is averaging 30.5 points and 323.5 yards per game -- 245.6 rushing and 77.9 passing.
  • The Bulldogs are 3-1 in area-round playoff games under coach Mike Wood.
  • Kilgore's defense is allowing 26.1 points on the season, and has forced 16 turnovers -- six fumbles and 10 interceptions.
  • The cumulative record of the four teams that have beaten Kilgore this season -- Nacogdoches, Gladewater, Texas High, and Center -- is 28-14 (.667).
  • Stafford is averaging 43.3 points and 390.3 yards per game -- 219.1 rushing and 171.2 passing.
  • Spartans receiver Hezekiah Jones, a Texas A&M commit, is averaging 17.2 yards per catch, and of his 31 receptions, 12 have gone for touchdowns.
  • Stafford's defense is allowing 11.6 points on the season, and has forced 31 turnovers -- 22 fumbles and nine interceptions.
  • Two of Stafford's three losses were non-district forfeits to Port Lavaca Calhoun and Bellville. The other loss was to El Campo (11-0), 31-20, in Week 10.

 

Kilgore DB Mateo Meraz. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Stafford passing game vs. Kilgore secondary. The Spartans will have the best player on the field Friday night in senior receiver and Texas A&M commit Hezekiah Jones. The standout receiver, who is ranked as the state's sixth-best receiver by Scout.com, has been the primary weapon all season long for Stafford junior quarterback Walter White. Jones is averaging less than three receptions per game, but is responsible for 12 of the team's 30 touchdown catches. White competes better than 56 percent of his passes with a touchdown-to-interception ration of 27:3 coming into this week's area-round playoff. The Spartans still run the football 61 percent of the time, but it's big plays in the passing game that has Stafford averaging more than 43 points per game. Stafford has 31 rushing touchdown on 311 attempts, a rate of 10 touchdowns per carry. However, the Spartans have just as many passing touchdowns, and average a passing score every 6.3 throws.

Kilgore QB Buddy Jackson. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

If Stafford is able to run the ball at will against Kilgore, then the Spartans' passing game won't be needed. But the odds of Stafford getting by without going to the air are slim. Opponents are averaging a little more than 114 rushing yards per game against Kilgore, and the Bulldogs have made 74 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which has gone a long way in Kilgore limiting opponents to an average of just 3.6 yards per carry. The real key will be how well Kilgore defends the pass. The Bulldogs enter Friday night's game with 10 interceptions as a team, three apiece by Mateo Meraz, Jerrick Ervin, and AJ Henson. Kilgore's defense allows right at 16 yards per reception, and surrenders 167.7 passing yards per game. Stafford should provide Kilgore with one of its toughest defensive tests of the season.

Don't be surprised if: Friday's game is decided by two or fewer possessions. Kilgore is certainly no stranger to tight games this season, as the Bulldogs have been involved in four games decided by seven points or less in 2016. Kilgore is 2-2 in such contests, having dropped a 29-27 decision to Gladewater and a 40-39 game against Center. Its two wins, which allowed it to claim the No. 1 seed from District 9-4A Division I, came against Carthage (41-34) and Henderson (28-26). On the other side, Stafford has yet to have one of its games decided by a touchdown or less. The Spartans' only loss, 31-20 setback to unbeaten El Campo in their regular-season finale, was the closest game they've been in all season. If Friday's clash is close late into the second half, Kilgore might have the edge.