HENDERSON – An arch-rival defeated, a district lead secured, bragging rights earned, and smiles all around.

With another meeting between state-ranked Henderson and Kilgore in the books, it was yet another thrilling finish. But the winner? That was the unexpected part.

Kilgore got a touchdown pass from Buddy Jackson to Jonathan Shepherd with 21 seconds remaining to take the lead, then held on through a hook-and-ladder type play as time ran out, for a 28-26 win.

The victory handed Henderson (6-1, 2-1) its first loss of the season, but more importantly for Kilgore, it gives the Bulldogs the outright District 9-4A Division I lead. Kilgore (5-3, 4-0) is off next Friday night before playing Center and Bullard in the last two games of their regular season. Henderson moves on to visit Center next Friday.

A roughing-the-passer penalty on Henderson will haunt the Lions for a while. They appeared to have stopped Kilgore on a fourth-and-4 at midfield with just over a minute to play in the game. But the flag came in, just as Jackson’s pass fell incomplete, and that gave the Bulldogs new hope, and more downs.

Melek Hamilton helped Kilgore with a run for just enough on a fourth-and-1 play inside the Henderson 30-yard-line, and then Jackson found Shepherd at the goal line on the next play, giving the Bulldogs a 28-26 lead.

Henderson attempted one last score, but the lateral, hook-and-ladder play failed, and time expired.

It was a bit of a crushing end for the Lions, who scored on the third play of the game – a 62-yard pass from Trae Hall to Lakendrick VanZandt – and either led, or were tied, with Kilgore for most of the contest.

Henderson led 8-0 after VanZandt’s early touchdown and two-point conversion, and Kilgore got within one, 8-7, when Hamilton scored on Kilgore’s first drive on an 8-yard run.

Henderson re-claimed the lead in the second quarter on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Matthew Childers, but Isaiah Smith blocked the extra point attempt and left the Lions up by just one touchdown, 14-7. Kilgore’s Jamal Nobles tied things up for the Bulldogs on a 2-yard run out of a power package with 3:14 remaining in the half.

The first half ended in bizarre fashion. Kilgore’s Elivan Torres was short on a 50-yard field goal, and Henderson’s Trestan Ebner ran the ball out of the end zone, for what was an apparent 100-yard touchdown. But a block in the back flag brought the play all the way back, and Henderson knelt to run out the clock, with the teams knotted at 14 at the break.

The Lions again took a lead when Ebner scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter, only to see things go awry again – a bad snap that Ebner had to chase down on the two-point conversion saw Ebner thrown for a 20-yard loss, and left the Lions up 20-14.

Kilgore got the go-ahead score with a 1-yard touchdown by Nobles, his second of the game, with 7:14 to play.

That left the Lions too much time, and Hall made Kilgore pay with a 26-yard touchdown run of his own. Henderson’s conversion attempt again failed, with Hall gang-tackled at the 2-yard-line, but leading, 26-21.

That brought about the game’s final moments, with Jackson leading Kilgore to midfield, and the roughing the passer call extending the drive.

For Kilgore, Jackson was 6-of-13 for just 64 yards, but the game-winner to Shepherd, who had only that catch. Deiontrae Wheat had four catches for 29 yards. Garrett Meyers also had a catch. Hamilton led Kilgore with 120 yards. Nobles had just 10 yards, but scored twice. Jackson had 60 yards on 11 carries.

For Henderson, Hall was 10-of-19 for 183 yards and two touchdowns (to VanZandt and Childers). VanZandt had two catches for 79 yards, and 90 yards rushing.