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Lions leave Bulldogs in the dust with huge first half

Ennis passing attack shreds Kilgore defense
The Kilgore Bulldogs hadn’t faced a team nearly as strong as the Ennis Lions in their first 11 games and it showed in Mesquite on Friday night.
The Lions (11-1) lit up the Kilgore (9-3) pass defense and corralled the Bulldog ground game to have a victory all but locked up by halftime at 35-14. Ennis followed up with a sound second half to cement an impressive 48-21 postseason win.
“The guys carried out the gameplan we drew up perfectly,” said coach Sam Harrell.
“They had great workouts and it all came together like we hoped.”
It was quite cold on the field, but the Ennis passing attack was white hot in the opening half. D.J. Betik torched Kilgore for 276 passing yards and two scores apiece to Kyle Guinyard and Deonte McDade in the opening-two quarters. By the time they headed to the locker room at the half, Guinyard (15-186) and McDade (9-90) already had outstanding stats for a full game.
“You just have to keep your hands warm and dry, but also keep the footballs warm on the sideline,” Betik said on a night where he completed 81 percent of his passes – including 13 straight to Guinyard and McDade.
“It makes you more comfortable back there not wondering who you’re going to throw to because you know [Guinyard and McDade] are going to make a play. We’re on the same page all the time and it makes you feel great to have receivers like that.”
“We have to throw the ball in adverse conditions and the kids continue to make plays,” Harrell said.
Tim Hearne had to run hard for every yard he got (17-60), but he found the end zone three times to give the senior seven scores in his first-two playoff games. Betik (4-53), Kelvin Pace (4-38) and Fred Carroll (2-12) were all very effective when they carried the ball.
Ennis won the turnover battle 3-2 as the Lion defense held the vaunted Kilgore run game to 4.4 yards per carry despite a 42-yard touchdown run from Frank Reddic (21-153-2). Reddic’s teammates combined for negative-five yards on 12 carries and he was the only Bulldog with even remotely impressive stats.
Bulldog quarterback Steven McBryde completed his final-seven passes, but that was after a one-of-nine start with an interception. Kilgore was forced to pass a lot more than it wanted to and the results weren’t pretty.
“Our kids did a great job of playing assignment football tonight and getting [Reddic] when he’d cut back,” said defensive coordinator Paul Willingham.
“We knew if we could get Kilgore in a passing situation it would be to our advantage because their linemen aren’t used to pass blocking,” Harrell added.
“They were going to be in trouble trying to block Rob [Boyd], [Justin] Piper and some of our other guys.”
Boyd (tackle for loss) and Piper sacked McBryde on consecutive plays in the second half, while turnovers came courtesy of McDade (interception), Nathan Dixon (interception) and Kory Krueger (fumble recovery).
Both teams were pretty sharp in the penalty department with four each, as Ennis followed a three-penalty first quarter with just one infraction the rest of the way.

Another explosive start for Lion offense
There’s nothing like a great kick return to open a ballgame and Jason Vavra gave that to the Lions with a 50-yard runback after sidestepping the initial defender. Ennis shook off a personal foul after the play as Betik hit Guinyard for a first down. Two plays later, McDade caught a short pass, sliced between a pair of Bulldogs and flew down the sideline for a 39-yard score (6-0, Colby Threet kick wide right after Ennis penalty).
“Blake [Adams] and Charles [Cox] gave me some good blocks, so I just hit the hole and took off,” McDade said.
Kilgore return man Andrew Ector answered with his own strong runback to the Ennis 45. A diving breakup of a deep pass by Xavier Tarrant helped Ennis force a third-and-long situation, but Reddic headed up the middle and cut wide as he dove across the goal line 42 yards later (6-7, Ryan Bustin kick good).
“[Reddic] is a good back and we knew he was going to get some yards,” Willingham said.
“Early in the game, I think our kids were a little nervous and he was fast enough to get to the end zone.”
Hearne ran for a first down early on Ennis’ second drive, but it wasn’t long before the Lions faced fourth-and-one. After an Ennis timeout, Hearne took the handoff and spun to the left for a three-yard gain.
“We were going to punt, but the offensive line told me they’d get the first down,” Harrell said.
“I trusted them and the offense stepped up.”
While a Guinyard reception helped Ennis work its way to midfield, the Lions would have to punt this time and Threet’s 50-yard effort was downed at the Kilgore 1. Sound tackles from Chonston Williams and Vavra, along with a key overthrow by McBryde, forced a Bulldog punt that Vavra brought back to the Kilgore 38.
“I think Chonston and Jason both came out with good games for us,” Willingham said.
Kilgore jumped offsides to give the Lions a free play on first down and Betik threw a great ball down the sideline as Guinyard made the grab in double coverage for a 38-yard touchdown. McDade’s swinging gate pass to Guinyard on the ensuing conversion made it 14-7 in favor of the Lions.
“We practice that play every day,” Guinyard said of the long touchdown.
“I saw their guy jump, so I knew D.J. would be going to me and their corner didn’t know what was going on. I stayed ahead of him and caught the touchdown.”
“I pictured making a throw like that last night in a dream,” Betik added.
“We’ve never tried that before, but we executed and Kyle got in there,” McDade said of the conversion pass.
“We would’ve been able to pass even if it was windy again. As long as we do our assignments, we can do anything.”
Kilgore obviously needed to counterpunch, but instead it fumbled away the kick return that followed as Krueger pounced on the pigskin at the Bulldog 33.
“I just stayed in my lane and did my job,” Krueger said.
“Whenever I saw the ball hit the ground I went for it and was lucky enough to get on it. Eric Hill was right there with me to make sure I secured it.”
Feeling his oats by this point, Betik went Guinyard-McDade-Guinyard to bring Ennis in front of the end zone. Hearne then burst up the middle and dove to paydirt for a five-yard score (21-7, kick good).
While Kilgore put a nice drive together late in the quarter, a pair of holding penalties helped minimize the damage from a couple of strong Reddic runs. Ennis eventually made a stand to force a punt as Kilgore downed the ball at the Lion 1. A rare Hearne fumble gave the Bulldogs the ball just two yards out and Reddic’s second attempt got him in after Krueger had stopped the tailback for no gain (21-14, kick good).
Seeing Kilgore climb back into the game, Betik decided to bully the Bulldog secondary some more in the second quarter. While Hearne ran for a trio of first downs on the drive, Betik used a pump fake to hit Guinyard deep for 31 yards. Later on, he flicked the ball out to McDade and the senior effortlessly shed a feeble tackle attempt to score from nine yards out (28-14, kick good).
“Once I made the corner miss, there was no one to keep me out of the end zone,” McDade said.
Kilgore fans could see the game rapidly slipping away. Ken Smith overthrew his man on a deep receiver pass and then Vavra broke up a deep ball to force another punt. With time running low in the half, Betik staged a masterful 11-play drive with Kilgore at his mercy.
The quarterback completed every pass as McDade and Guinyard each tallied a pair of first downs to help the Lions work their way to the Bulldog 8. After Ennis’ last timeout, Betik fired a pass to the front corner of the end zone and Guinyard boxed out his defender for a sure-handed grab with just 30 seconds left (35-14, kick good).
“Me and the corner were both fighting for the ball on that fade stop, and I was being more physical to catch it,” Guinyard said of his fifteenth reception in the half.
“That was a huge touchdown because I know [Kilgore] was hoping to keep it relatively close at halftime,” Harrell added.
The Bulldogs tried a desperation deep ball on the last play of the half, but the only player with a shot to catch McBryde’s heave was McDade and he made good on the interception.

Ennis defense puts choke chain on Bulldogs
Reddic’s initial run of the second half earned him a first down, yet Ennis quickly turned stingy with a sound takedown by Jason Minchew and a Boyd tackle for loss on third down to force a punt.
“I was forced to make an open-field tackle,” Boyd said.
“I’m not used to playing linebacker, but they threw me in there and I just had to be coachable to get there in a bad mood and make plays.”
“Rob did play a couple of positions tonight and I thought he was dominating the line of scrimmage,” Willingham added.
“We knew we had to step up and stay in our gaps after they got that big [early touchdown] run,” Krueger said.
“We needed to hit [Reddic] harder and make him regret coming through there.”
After a rare Ennis three-and-out, Reddic broke a nice run to help his team work its way to the Lion 25. With any chance of a miracle comeback on the line, Kilgore showed its weakness through the air. Reddic dropped what would’ve been a sure touchdown catch and then top receiver Ector dropped a pass on fourth down.
Setting up shop 75 yards from the end zone, Betik got back to work. Ennis went for another fourth-down conversion and Hearne got it done on the ground.
After a couple of passes to Guinyard, Betik called his own number and broke a tackle to get in the open field. The junior showed the benefits of his participation in the ’08 track season as one defensive back couldn’t close in on him and another finally stopped him 49 yards later at the Bulldog 2.
“After I broke that tackle, I was wondering if I was going to score by diving in and I just dropped the ball right at the end,” Betik said.
Hearne could smell his third touchdown and the diminutive back steamrolled a Bulldog at the goal line for a 42-14 advantage late in the third (kick good).
“He had to run over a guy about twice his size to get in there,” Harrell said.
The Ennis defense really began to flex its muscle as Piper sacked McBryde on the final play of the quarter and then Boyd did the same on the first play of the fourth. The punter would fumble the snap and recover the ball for a 19-yard loss.
“Me and Miguel [Almanza] were closing in on him and good things happen when your motor is going fast on every play,” Boyd said.
“We knew Reddic was a good back and he was probably going to score, but we had to keep our heads up and we fed off the offense tonight. Kory and Gabe [Young] did a good job stepping in for me [at defensive tackle] when I was playing linebacker. The whole defense played lights out.”
Just 22 yards from another end zone visit, Guinyard caught a first-down pass and a trio of Hearne runs did the trick from there (42-14, kick blocked).
Kilgore’s offense continued to sputter down the stretch as receiver Smith threw a deep ball that was tipped up by Jeremy Smith and picked off in the end zone by Dixon for a touchback.
“We knew Nathan had the heart to play for us and he’s doing a fantastic job,” Willingham said.
Sophomore Carroll managed to notch a first down on a couple of carries before the Bulldogs recovered a Pace fumble at the Ennis 35. Kilgore finally put a few decent plays together as backup runner Courtney Maddox scored on a seven-yard run with just over two minutes left (48-41, kick good).
In the closing moments of the action, Pace made arguably the game’s best run as he bulldozed his way for 24 yards – keeping his legs churning and taking about half the Kilgore defense with him.
Ennis will now prepare for one of its toughest challenges to date as the Lions are set to face undefeated Rockwall-Heath on Friday at noon in Texas Stadium. Rockwall-Heath used a 34-point second quarter to obliterate Dallas Hillcrest 58-21 on Friday.
Star running back Kendial Lawrence – the area’s top 4A rusher – helped his team gain 484 yards on the ground, but the defense did give up 367 passing yards to Hillcrest. The matchup with Ennis seems to have shootout written all over it, but members of the Lion defense won’t accept such a notion.
“We hung onto a pretty good back tonight and that should give us a lot of confidence going up against Rockwall-Heath,” Willingham said.
“We need to hit [Lawrence] hard continuously so he doesn’t feel like trying to run through us,” Krueger said.
“We’ve got to come out next week and get a big stop, and then let the offense do what they do,” Boyd added.
On the heels of their razor-sharp showing, Betik and Guinyard are ready for the big stage.
“We’ve been talking about trying to get back to Texas Stadium the whole season and now the time is here,” Guinyard said.
“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable and we’ve been waiting for this chance since we were little watching Graham [Harrell], Clark [Harrell] and all those guys play there,” Betik added.
“We’re so excited it’s us now.”
Harrell believes in his team and welcomes the challenge.
“We’ll prepare like we always do and go after them,” the coach said.
“I’m very proud of the guys, but I’m not surprised we played as great as we did. We’re still not satisfied because there are more games ahead.”

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Posted by on Nov 24 2008. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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