KILGORE, Texas—Texas High’s revenge was sweet, the Tigers beating Kilgore at its own running game.
Kilgore’s running game overpowered a young Texas High team last year (42-14), but Friday night at R.E. St. John’s Memorial Stadium it was the Tigers’ turn. Led by running back Tracy Cooper, Texas High outmuscled the previously-unbeaten Bulldogs, 30-14, for their third straight impressive victory.
Cooper carried 32 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns, surpassing the 200-yard mark for the second straight week. He also had a TD negated by penalty, the fourth time that’s happened to him this young season.
Texas High coach Gerry Stanford said a year’s experience has made quite a difference for the Tigers on both sides of the ball.
“It was just a real physical battle against a real physical team,” he said. “We’re like a team on a mission right now, and the kids are really getting after it. Tracy is running his butt off, he’s being patient, and the offensive line is doing a great job. They are our biggest area of improvement, and the season our young guys went through last year is starting to pay off.”
Running game propels Tigers past Kilgore
Other than three big plays by the Kilgore offense in the third quarter, Texas High had the game in control, leading 14-0 at the half and adding to that a 34-yard field goal by Oscar Hernandez on its first possession of the second.
But a 27-yard run by Kenneth Lacy set up Dalton McElyea’s 24-yard scoring pass to Brian Brown after the ensuing kickoff. And two plays after a 16-yard Tiger punt, backup running back Trayvon Epps streaked 61 yards against a blitzing defense to make it 17-14 with 1:59 to go in the third quarter.
But that would be it for Kilgore. The Tiger defense, led by the pressure of linemen Trestin Whitehead and Clayton Smith, shut down McElyea’s passing game, which helped produce 64 points last week, and the Tigers tacked on two insurance scores in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense did a great job containing an outstanding offense,” Stanford said. “We had a couple of busts there in the third quarter, but overall we played well for the third straight week.”
Cooper’s 9-yard scoring burst capped a 9-play, 80-yard drive with 3:32 left in the first quarter, and the two teams battled on scoreless terms until the final play of the half.
Fourth down conversion big for Texas High
Faced with fourth-and-goal from the Kilgore 3, the Tigers called their final timeout, only to see the officials start the game clock before the ball was snapped. Quarterback Rian Cellers rushed to the line of scrimmage and flipped the ball to wideout Kobe Webster in the end zone as time expired.
“We really didn’t know what was going on when the referee started the clock before we snapped the ball. I’m not sure what might have happened if we hadn’t scored,” Stanford said.
Cellers recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone on another fourth-down play with 3:31 left in the game, and Cooper flashed 29 yards for a touchdown 45 seconds later after Kilgore had failed to convert a fourth down.
The Tigers open District 7-A, Division I play next week at John Tyler, and Stanford know his team will have to be at its best against the winless Lions.
“These three wins have given the kids a lot of confidence, but John Tyler is still John Tyler,” he said. “They haven’t won, but they’ve played a heck of a schedule. So we know we will have to play our best game.”
Texas High 7 7 3 13 — 30
Kilgore 0 0 14 0 — 14
TH-Tracy Cooper 9 run (Oscar Hernandez kick), 3:32
TH-Kobe Webster 3 pass from Rian Cellers (Hernandez kick), 0:00
TH-Hernandez 34 FG, 7:22
KIL-Brian Brown 24 pass from Dalton McElyea (Chris Baldazo kick), 4:55
KIL-Trayvon Epps 61 run (Baldazo kick), 1:59
TH-Rian Cellers fumble recovery in end zone (Hernandez kick), 3:31
TH-Cooper 29 run (kick failed), 2:46