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Stephenville Holds Off Kilgore Rally, 42-32, Advances to State Championship Game

MANSFIELD — When Stephenville needed him most, Tyler Jones came through.

The senior quarterback totaled 407 yards and accounted for five touchdowns and the Stephenville Yellowjackets defeated the Kilgore Bulldogs, 42-32, and advanced to face El Campo in the Class 3A Division I state championship at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The Texas State-bound Jones led Stephenville (12-1) on touchdown drives on six of its first eight possessions, none bigger than the last one that was capped by his 2-yard score with 2:09 left to clinch the victory.

Jones finished 17 of 24 for 297 yards passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. He added 110 yards on the ground.

“We’ve been a 48-minute team all season long,” said Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie. “We had to give it everything we had tonight. Hats off to our kids and coaches, they did a wonderful job. Hats off to Kilgore. They play hard, real hard. (Kilgore) is the hardest-playing football team we’ve faced this year.”

With 7:50 remaining in the game, Kilgore faced a fourth down deep in its own territory. When punter Hector Peralez fumbled the snap and was smothered by two Stephenville defenders, it gave the Yellowjackets the ball with a chance to end the game. But Jones’ next pass was intercepted by Kilgore linebacker A.J. Davis, who returned it 20 yards to the 30-yard line, and the Bulldogs still had hope.

Kilgore’s (11-2) Cooper Coldiron hit Aaron Foy in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass at the 5:08 mark in the fourth, and then hit DaQuellan Scott for the two-point conversion, making it 35-32 Stephenville.

Kilgore’s offense had more yards than Stephenville’s vaunted spread (500-479), which came in averaging 51 points per game. Coldiron was 10 of 17 for 128 yards passing, and one touchdown. Foy led the Bulldogs in receiving with 78 yards and a score on five catches. But turnovers ultimately did in Kilgore.

Stephenville scored two touchdowns before Kilgore even had a snap. Its first drive went seven plays in less than three minutes when Jones scored on a 1-yard run making it, 7-0.

Foy fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving Stephenville the ball back inside the red-zone. Two plays later, Jones scurried in for a 19-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Kilgore answered quickly when Kevrin Justice went 45 yards to paydirt on the next possession at the 8:05 mark in the first, making it 14-7.

Justice totaled 139 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while teammate Austin Jordan had 134 yards and one score.

Stephenville’s next drive was more methodical, going 76 yards on nine plays. Jones connected with Alex Sanchez on a 54-yard wheel route to the 2-yard line. Jones’ third touchdown of the first quarter, a 2-yard score, gave the Yellowjackets a 21-7 advantage. Sanchez tallied 139 yards receiving and one score on five grabs.

Kilgore built a drive that lasted over eight minutes, that ended the first quarter and chewed up half of the second. On the 16th play, Peralez nailed a 29-yard field goal, bringing the Bulldogs closer, 21-10.

Stephenville went back to the up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense and covered 60 yards in five plays. Witt Westbrook punched it in from 2 yards out, giving Stephenville a 28-10 cushion.

When Kilgore fumbled the ensuing kickoff, again, the Yellowjackets went straight to the air in one play when Jones hit Sanchez on a pitch-and-catch, 29-yard touchdown catch that gave Stephenville a commanding 35-10 lead.

Kilgore responded right before halftime. With 1:01 left, Jordan, who already had a 64-yard touchdown run negated by offsetting penalties, went 70 yards to the house and gave Kilgore a boost going into the half, down 35-17.

“I think the second half kind of tells about this football team,” said Kilgore head coach Mike Wood. “Being down like that (35-10 in second quarter), it would have been easy to quit and say your season is over. But they came back and they battled and got themselves back into the football game. That’s why I’m proud of them, we don’t have anything to hang our head about today.”

Kilgore opened the second half with an 11-play drive, mixing runs with bootlegs, keeping Stephenville’s defense off balance. When Justice scored from 4 yards out, it was 35-24 and it was a new ballgame.

Stephenville’s next three possessions ended in two punts and an interception. Kilgore had a chance late in the third for more points, but Peralez missed a 41-yard field goal at the 11:55 mark in the fourth.

Kilgore’s final drive ended with a Coldiron sack by Stephenville defenders Chase Varnado and Kody Hook.

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