Kilgore Hopes to Put Rough Start Behind It + Meets Upstart Palestine in District Opener
DISTRICT 9-4A DIVISION I
Palestine Wildcats (3-1)
Kilgore Bulldogs (1-3)
7:30 p.m. Friday
R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, Kilgore
- Palestine: Robby Clark
- Kilgore: Mike Wood
- Palestine: vs. Center, Sept. 30
- Kilgore: at Chapel Hill, Sept. 30
- QB Claude Rodgers, Sr., 5-11, 185 (31 of 71, 653 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs; 46 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs)
- RB Irric Deyon, Sr., 5-7, 160 (61 carries, 251 yards, 3 TDs; 3 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD)
- WR/CB J'hamonte Milton, Sr., 6-1, 170 (12 catches, 300 yards, 2 TDs; 10 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble, 2 recoveries)
- OL Jake Neal, Sr., 6-4, 270
- LB Edward Reese, Sr., 6-0, 205 (30 tackles, 10 for loss, 1 sack)
- LB Quinn Tinley, Sr., 6-2, 185 (12 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble)
- DL Jakobe Pursley, Jr. (24 tackles, 6 for loss, 1 forced fumble)
- DB Josh Williams, Soph. (33 tackles, 7 for loss, 2 PBUs)
- QB Buddy Jackson, Jr., 5-9, 155 (18 of 31, 220 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 34 carries, 236 yards, 2 TDs)
- RB Melek Hamilton, Sr., 5-5, 160 (57 carries, 430 yards, 5 TDs)
- WR Cole Wood, Sr., 6-2, 170 (14 catches, 144 yards)
- OL Dylan Scarlett, Sr., 6-2, 285
- LB Jamal Nobles, Sr., 5-9, 196 (32 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 QB pressures, 1 PBU)
- DE Demorrea Richardson, Jr. (18 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 sacks, 5 QB pressures, 1 fumble recovery)
- DT Kevin Tinney, Sr., 5-11, 230 (17 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 QB pressures)
- LB Sebastian Mumphrey, Jr. (25 tackles, 1 QB pressure)
Just the facts
- This is the 10th meeting between Palestine and Kilgore since 1980. Kilgore is 7-2 over that span, and has won four consecutive meetings.
- Kilgore has defeated Palestine the last two seasons by a combined score of 92-6.
- Palestine is 3-1 to begin a season for the first time since 2013.
- The cumulative record of the Wildcats' first four non-district opponents is 8-8.
- Palestine averages 29.5 points and 292.3 yards per game -- 121.5 rushing and 170.8 passing.
- Kilgore is hoping to avoid its second 1-4 start to a season in the last three years.
- The cumulative record of the Bulldogs' first four non-district opponents is 10-5.
- Kilgore averages 23.5 points and 283.5 yards per game -- 216.8 rushing and 66.5 passing.
Key matchup: Kilgore rushing attack vs. Palestine defensive front. It's been a struggle in the early going for the Bulldogs' offense, which is averaging less than 300 yards per game through four weeks. In last week's 44-0 loss to Texas High, Kilgore was shut out for the first time since 1994, and managed just 91 total yards (74 rushing). The Bulldogs' offense is run-heavy, evidenced by their 132 rushes and 37 passing attempts on the season. Kilgore has a couple of solid options in the passing game with receivers Cole Wood and Jonathan Shepherd, but the Bulldogs would prefer to keep it simple and grind out yards on the ground. Running back Melek Hamitlon and quarterback Buddy Jackson lead the team in rushing, each averaging more than seven yards per carry, and have combined for seven of the team's nine rushing touchdowns.
Palestine has had similar problems moving the ball on offense this season, but has benefitted from a stingy and opportunistic defense that has carried the Wildcats to a 3-1 start to 2016. Palestine has made 40 stops behind the line of scrimmage, and has forced nine turnovers in four games -- six interceptions and three fumbles. The solid numbers on defense have come despite playing high-powered offenses from Jacksonville and Van, which combined to score 78 points against Palestine in the two wins. The Wildcats attack opposing offenses from multiple angles. Eleven different Palestine defenders have made tackles for loss, and three players have corralled two interceptions apiece. It's a formula that must continue Friday night if Palestine wishes to begin district in the win column.
Don't be surprised if: Points are at a premium Friday night. As noted above, both Kilgore and Palestine have had trouble on offense. Kilgore enters the game averaging less than 24 points per game, while both teams average less than 300 yards of offense. The outcome may be decided by which offense is the most balanced, and so far, Palestine has been the more diverse unit of the two. The Wildcats have a dual-threat quarterback in Claude Rodgers, who has passed for more than 650 yards and run for almost 150 while accounting for nine touchdowns. Running back Irric Deyon is the primary ball carrier with a team-best 61 carries and 251 yards on the season. If Palestine is able to slow down Kilgore's ground game, it will be up to Jackson, Wood, Shepherd, and Co. to make plays through the air for the Bulldogs.