Noah Hildebrand, Nacogdoches Take Care of Business Against Kilgore to Start Season
KILGORE -- Nacogdoches quarterback Noah Hildebrand faced a tough Kilgore defense at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in the season opener for both of those programs, and Hildebrand still managed to get the job done.
The Dragons used a balanced attack and held off a young but game Kilgore team, dealing the Bulldogs a 28-10 loss Friday night.
Nacogdoches (1-0) will host Hallsville next Friday night. Kilgore (0-1) will hit the road to Houston, facing Corpus Christi Flour Bluff next Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Galena Park North Shore Stadium.
Hildebrand went 15-of-19 for 200 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He got a lot of help from tailback Phillip Jones, who got opportunity after opportunity -- 31 carries, to be exact -- and finished with 151 yards.
They were facing a Kilgore team that's very young: a sophomore, Patrick Jackson, starting at quarterback; an almost completely-new wide receiver corps; and an offensive line that returns just one starter, center Jackson Hatcher, from a year ago.
Still, Kilgore gave the Dragons a fight, especially early.
The Bulldogs were unable to score on their first drive, punting the ball away. Nac, though, put together a quick seven-play, 40-yard scoring drive. Jones did the honors from 6 yards out and gave his team a 7-0 lead with 7:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Kilgore's first scoring opportunity was slapped down, a 21-yard field goal blocked by Nac's Pearce Adams, although the Bulldogs quickly got another chance. Mateo Meraz picked off a deflected Hildebrand pass, and set Kilgore up at the Dragons' 41-yard-line.
Kilgore made the most of it, getting inside Nac's 5, but the drive stalled there and the Bulldogs were forced to try another field goal. Christian Galvan succeeded in this attempt, again from 21 yards, and Kilgore trailed 7-3.
Hildebrand and receiver Alex Gregory pulled off a magic trick on the Dragons' next drive, converting a first down on a third-and-25, backed up against their own goal line. Penalties backed the Dragons up to their own 5, but Hildebrand, under heavy pressure from Kilgore for much of the night, got a pass off, heaving it down the middle of the field and into the hands of Gregory.
He hauled it in at midfield. Gregory finished with 120 yards on six catches, and a touchdown, which he got on that drive, a 40-yard pass moments later. It gave Nac a 14-3 lead.
The Dragons would get one more score before halftime, an 11-yard touchdown run by Jones. That score came after Nac had recovered a fumble by Jackson at his own 31. Nac led 21-3 at the half.
Kilgore got back into the game with a dynamic punt return by Chris Toombs early in the third quarter. Kilgore forced Nac to punt, and Toombs fielded it near his own sideline at the 37.
He got free from a pair of Nac defenders and then hit the sideline, finally breaking into the open field and outrunning everyone for what would turn out to be Kilgore's only touchdown of the night, a 67-yarder. Toombs is the son of former Kilgore standout Ja'Mar Toombs.
Hildebrand connected with Jaylon Maxie on a diving 40-yard pass in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Maxie made a diving catch in good coverage, and held on for the score.
Ja'Quorius Smith, a senior, led Kilgore's ground game with 52 yards on 12 carries. Jackson was 3-of-4 for 54 yards, including a 38-yard pass to Toombs in the first half.