Line Play Fuels Kilgore’s 44-6 State Semifinal Blowout of Stephenville
CORSICANA -- Kilgore's football program prides itself in its old-school approach to the game.
Saturday afternoon's Class 3A Division I state semifinal performance was as perfect an example of that physical-minded style as the Bulldogs have shown in 2013.
Head coach Mike Wood's offensive and defensive lines dominated at the point of attack, producing 478 rushing yards and pestering hobbled Stephenville junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham all afternoon in the 44-6 blowout, which sends Kilgore (14-0) to the 3A D-I state championship at noon Friday against old East Texas rival Carthage.
"Our offensive line, we've leaned on them all year," Wood said. "They've done a great job. We knew Stephenville was a big, physical bunch up front, but like I said, our offensive line did a great job. The running backs hit the holes. We were able to get some big runs and move the chains and work the clock a little bit."
Kilgore junior tailback Kevrin Justice ran 23 times for 218 yards and three touchdowns, while senior Davieonta "JuJu" Brown had 129 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Senior receiver Aaron Foy gashed Stephenville (12-2) for 89 yards on only three carries in addition to his 47-yard touchdown catch-and-run from senior Benny Colbert in the first quarter.
Kilgore's 478-yard rushing total was almost 150 yards more than the Bulldogs' already impressive season average. Kilgore's ground attack -- propelled by a veteran offensive line including seniors Clay Wiley, Nolan Grush, Austin Clark, and Gabriel Gough, plus juniors Blake Guthrie -- helped the 'Dogs build a 27-0 second-quarter lead, leaving little doubt in the outcome from that point.
"I have to give a shout-out to the offensive line," said Colbert, who had 102 total yards of offense. "They really made the running backs' job easier. They do their work up front and the running backs find that crease."
Meanwhile, Kilgore's defense swarmed all over the high-powered Yellow Jackets, who entered the game averaging 474.4 total yards per game, including 270 on the ground. Kilgore got its usual dominant front-line performance from the likes of seniors LaDarrin Anthony, D.Q. Scott, Caleb Wood, and junior Jacobe Wafer, who helped the Bulldogs hold the Jackets to a paltry 209 total yards.
A couple of first-half drives helped Stephenville freshman running back Kaegun Williams run for 122 yards by halftime, but the 'Dogs smothered him in the second half. He finished with 126 yards on 18 carries with only four yards on three second-half totes.
"We kept working and we didn't let that frustrate us," Anthony said of his defensive line's improvement during the course of the game. "We kept going at it and picked up our intensity."
Coach Wood said the pressure his line created helped his defense contain the talented Stidham, who already holds almost 20 high-major college offers. Stidham, who appeared slowed by a hamstring injury he suffered in last week's regional final win against Lubbock Cooper, finished only 6 of 17 for 51 yards and an interception, which went to senior Jeffery Sanders. He ran six times for minus-4 yards as the Bulldogs harassed him all afternoon.
"I think just being physical. Being physical up front," Mike Wood said as the key to the trench dominance. "They do a lot of things to get angles on you. Our kids did a good job playing technique and stringing things out and running to the football. ... I was proud of our defensive line. They were able to pressure him and not give (Stidham) a whole lot of outs to run the football like he likes to."
Veteran defender Jake Brantley praised the defensive front for the impact it had on the game.
"Our D-line was just winning battles up front, getting back there and distracting them," Brantley said. "We knew what we were going up against and we didn't let up at all."
Kilgore now prepares for a Carthage offense fresh off a 547-yard performance in a 51-22 state semifinal rout of La Grange. These teams started the season against each other in a mid-August scrimmage, so it's only fitting that the old Class 4A district enemies will finish a memorable 2013 season on the state's biggest stage.