Sep. 22—KILGORE — The start of one of the region's most competitive district stretches begins Friday night when the Palestine Wildcats take on the Kilgore Bulldogs.
There's a reason why District 9-4A Division I is dubbed the "district of doom." Athens, Mabank and Chapel Hill are a combined 12-0 in the non-district portion of their schedules.
Henderson and Kilgore both enter the district stretch with one loss. And the only team who finished with fewer wins then Palestine in its previous four games is a Lindale Eagle team who went 6-0 in district last year en route to a state title game appearance.
"You come off a big win against Waco Connally and have to be ready seven days later to play another great team," head coach Lance Angel said. "The biggest thing for us is playing with effort. We do that. We're a pretty good football team. But we have to show up every Friday."
Effort will for sure be needed in a district where five of its seven teams were featured in the latest East Texas top 15 polls.
This will be essential against a Kilgore team that is favorited by 28 points over the Wildcats, according to Texas Football. The Bulldogs strung together a pair of wins over Nacogdoches and Hallsville before winning their final preseason game against Gladewater, 54-0.
Their lone loss came against Longview Pine Tree, 42-27, who is ranked second amongst 6A/5A/4A ETX schools.
For Palestine, one of the biggest positives for them heading into this week is health. Running back Taj'Shawn Wilson appears to be returning to form after missing week two's game against Jacksonville.
In his return, Wilson paced their running back group with 23 carries for 195 yards and two scores. He was the second different rusher this season to surpass 170 yards rushing — the first being Elijah Walker in week two against Jacksonville (172).
"We have a lot of good running backs and Taj'Shawn adds to that mix," Angel said. "He's very explosive and runs violently. That's a good complement to the other backs we have."
Angel is 1-1 against Kilgore since 2019. The first year they beat the Bulldogs 21-7. Last year, they fell 49-28 at home. The Bulldogs return 20 members from 2020's regional finalist team including four of its defense's leading tacklers in Alex Chavez, Marcaelin Caraway, Davin Rider and Chris Ervin.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday inside R. E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore.