CENTER – Two years in a row now, Center has stunned the Kilgore Bulldogs.
Kilgore took a 28-0 lead here Friday night, looking to wrap up second place in the District 9-4A Division I standings, but fell to a rousing Center comeback, 49-35.

Center (3-3 in district play) is finished with the regular season. The Roughriders have their open date next week, and might be done for the season, depending how the rest of the district games play out.

Kilgore (6-3, 3-2) hosts Bullard in the regular season finale. Henderson hosts Palestine, and district leader Carthage faces Chapel Hill.

The Bulldogs could do little wrong in the first half, sprinting out to a 28-0 lead. Briant Mumphrey scored first for Kilgore, a 24-yard run after a 19-yard score had been called back on a penalty. Nick Hooper doubled Kilgore’s lead to 14-0 on a 32-yard run, and Octavian McKee recovered a fumble in the end zone for a 21-0 Kilgore lead in the second quarter.

Mumphrey scored again, this time on a 1-yard run, with 7:42 left in the half, and with a four-touchdown deficit, Center began chopping away.

On the first play of their next drive from their own 21, Center quarterback Jayden Hicks threw the ball downfield to Jaterius Evans, who caught the ball without breaking stride and outran Hooper to the end zone.

Kilgore had to punt on its next possession, and downed the ball at the Center 3-yard-line.

Incredibly, in almost a replay, only longer, Hicks and Evans connected again, this time on a play that went for a 97-yard touchdown. Evans caught the ball just shy of midfield and never looked back, getting into the end zone and cutting Kilgore’s lead to 28-13, which was the halftime score.

Kilgore went up 35-13, scoring a touchdown by Ja’Vorie Hamilton from 10 yards out early in the third quarter.

But Center never quit, and just like the Riders did a year ago, they came back to burn Kilgore again.

Hicks and Evans connected once more on a 42-yard pass, and Evans didn’t score, but he did get the Riders to Kilgore’s 35. Hicks found Jake Liker two plays later for a 26-yard gain. Liker fumbled the ball, but got it back, and then Hicks struck again for another touchdown pass (he had five in the game), this one to Kaleb Parks. With 5:08 left in the third, Center had pulled within 15 points, 35-20.

Kilgore fumbled an exchange on a first-down play at midfield on its next drive, and Center capitalized yet again. Marques Hall, Center’s running back, picked up 38 yards, down to Kilgore’s 10, and two plays later, Hicks scored on a 1-yard run. That got Center within eight, 35-27.

With the third quarter running out, Kilgore fumbled yet again, this time on a first-down play at its own 26. Center recovered, then scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, another 1-yard run by Hicks. Parks caught the two-point conversion, tying the game at 35.

But Kilgore wouldn’t be able to answer. A fumble on a third straight possession, this one on a pitch-out gone wrong from Patrick Jackson to Jaiden Zackery, allowed Center to get the ball at Kilgore’s 31. A penalty pushed them back, but Hicks found Evans open again, and he caught the ball for the go-ahead score, putting Center up, 42-35 with 10:06 left.

The Riders added one more touchdown, a 2-yard run by Evans, and iced the contest.

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