FORGETABOUTIT! | Kilgore plans to bounce back at Gladewater Friday

Sep. 15—The distance between their cities is a little more than 13 miles, but football programs at both Kilgore and Gladewater have high expectations for the remainder of their seasons.

Coach Clint Fuller's Kilgore Bulldogs, 2-1 now after coming off a loss to Pine Tree last Friday night, will face coach Johnny Louvier's Gladewater Bears, also 2-1, at Gladewater's Jack V. Murphy Stadium, a 7:30 p.m. (of course) kickoff this Friday.

Tickets are on sale in advance, online, and anyone who can't go can still hear the game on KDOK 105.3-FM, as well as, with the Ragin' Red Broadcasting team on the call, in its 40{sup}th{/sup} season calling Kilgore football.

The Bears opened the season in very unspectacular fashion, a 42-14 loss to a Gilmer team whose state championship aspirations might just be valid.

Then, COVID concerns forced school leaders to close Gladewater ISD for a few days around Labor Day, and the Bears weren't able to play its scheduled game against Spring Hill.

Gladewater did play last weekend, though, and escaped Center with a 15-14 win. In that one, the Bears got 202 yards and a touchdown from running back Malachi Gordon.

And there is this bit of information: both Kilgore and Center start district play next week, and Gladewater has arguably its biggest game of the entire season right out of the gate: a trip to Tatum, again ranked No. 1 in the #bEASTTexas Fabulous 15 poll of 3A-2A-TAPPS football programs, and No. 3 in the state in the newest Dave Campbell's Texas Football rankings.

Gladewater certainly has had its problems so far this season, and Kilgore has looked good enough to have been ranked as high as fifth in the state in the DCTF poll. But the Bulldogs ran into a Pine Tree team that is, needless to say, much improved from the Pirates' program for much of the last three decades. It seems coach Kerry Lane finally has turned the Pirates around.

But for Fuller and his Bulldogs, that concern has to be in the rear-view mirror. Pine Tree is not a district game — that path is still in front of the 'Dogs, and it is free to walk, and they'll begin that walk next week when Palestine comes to town.

For now, it's the final non-district challenge of the year, and that's the Bears.

Some of the numbers from the Gladewater game, for the Ragin' Red: Jermaine Roney was outstanding, six catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and might have won the Chick-Fil-A player of the week, had Andon Mata not led West Rusk back from a 17-0 deficit to beat Mineola.

Also for Kilgore, quarterback Da'Marion Van Zandt somehow completed 16-of-30 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns, but was harassed all night. Kilgore's offensive line briefly lost center Alex Cervantes to injury in the second half; Cervantes was one of a handful of Bulldogs that were injured in the game.

On the other end of those passes, besides Roney, was Isaiah Ross, who had three catches for 54 yards; Davin Rider, who had two for 42 yards; Matthew Tyeskie, who had two for 11 yards; and Corey Rider, P.J. Wiley and Daverion Franklin, who each had a catch: Rider for 20 yards, Wiley for 12, and Franklin for eight.

One other thing that shined for Kilgore was the kicking game. Jose Jaime punted just twice, but averaged 45 yards a punt, and kicker Chris Baldazo showed why he can win a game or hit a big kick at any time. Baldazo hit a 41-yarder, then a 40-yarder, in the game.

On the season, Davin Rider leads KHS with 480 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 41 carries; Kilgore, as a unit behind a good offensive line, has 631 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on 91 carries, averaging right at 7 yards a carry — pretty solid.

Van Zandt has completed 31-of-60 passes for 427 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. And Roney leads the team in catches (11) and yards (123), and has the two touchdowns.

Defensively, for the first time this season, Kilgore didn't have a sack or a turnover. Peyton Christian led the team in tackles (eight) and had two for loss. Omarion Smith had seven tackles. Alex Chavez had three tackles and a tackle for loss, as well as two quarterback hurries, and Zaelen Matthews had no tackles, but three hurries. Jackson Harris had four tackles and two hurries, and Chris Ervin had five tackles.

Corey Rider and Ronyn Williams each had a pass break-up.

The Bulldogs will look to have a better performance against Gladewater — Pine Tree managed to get 430 total yards on Kilgore, and the Bulldogs only forced two three-and-outs.