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Lions and Bulldogs prepare for collision in Mesquite

State champions of 2004 season set to square off
The Ennis Lions absolutely dominated their bi-district ballgame last week, while the Kilgore Bulldogs escaped with a victory by the skin of their teeth.
It bodes well for Ennis’ (10-1) chances on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Mesquite Memorial Stadium, but at the same time a tight win doesn’t mean Kilgore (9-2) isn’t dangerous.
“I don’t feel like winning a close game like Kilgore did or winning big like we did against Red Oak means much of anything for this week,” said coach Sam Harrell.
“You take it one week at a time in the playoffs.”
The Lions and Bulldogs couldn’t be much more different offensively, which should make for an interesting matchup to see which strategy wins out. Each team marched through the postseason for a 4A championship in 2004, but the Div. II bracket just isn’t big enough for bulldogs and big cats to both hang around for the holidays.
The contrasting styles of play have led to big differences on the scoreboard. Kilgore hasn’t scored more than 35 points in a game this season, while Ennis scored less than 35 just one time.
“Kilgore doesn’t score a lot because they take up so much time on offense and that usually means low scoring for their opponents as well,” Harrell said.
“There aren’t a lot of possessions in their games. The best thing when facing our offense is to not let us on the field.”

Bulldogs’ road to 9-2
In the season opener, Kilgore pulled out a 33-20 win over 3A Carthage, which is still playing at 9-2. The game was tight most of the way, but a 21-point second quarter and then a 12-0 fourth quarter for the Bulldogs put them on top.
Kilgore lost the turnover battle 3-2 and only compiled 258 yards of offense. Workhorse tailback Frank Reddic got his big year underway (25-109-1), while receivers Andrew Ector and Xavian Sanders each made sure their only catch was good for a touchdown. Defensively, safety Trevor Moon tallied 11 tackles.
Week two brought a 23-10 win over Hallsville, as Kilgore limited its opponent to just 191-total yards. Each team turned the ball over twice as Reddic nearly outgained Hallsville by himself (24-167-2). Moon ran for 63 yards on four carries and notched double-digit tackles (10) for the second-straight week.
A slow first half cost the Bulldogs in week three as they lost to Marshall 28-18. Kilgore’s usually stout defense allowed 264 rushing yards, but the Bulldogs did win the turnover battle 1-0. Reddic rolled up his usual strong numbers (18-133-2), while receiver Ector had what was a relatively busy receiving night for Kilgore (6-69).
3A power Gilmer has only lost one game this season, and it came by a 28-14 margin to Kilgore in week four. Kilgore took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, won the turnover battle 4-0 and only allowed 188 total yards. The Bulldogs had their worst penalty game by far (10-113), but only gave up 30 rushing yards on 22 totes.
Reddic was the key cog as usual (37-167-1), while Ector had a rare 100-yard receiving game for Kilgore (3-109-1). Quarterback Steven McBryde didn’t complete another pass in the win.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs pulled away from 3A Palestine in week five to win 35-14. Kilgore allowed just 176 yards of offense, while the Bulldog ground game churned out 254 yards. Someone besides Reddic actually received double-digit carries (Courtney Maddox, 12-84). Winning the turnover battle 3-2 didn’t do Palestine much good.
On the other hand, taking the turnover battle 2-0 worked wonders for Lindale in the district opener for both teams as it cruised past Kilgore 35-17. The Bulldogs lost convincingly despite 218 rushing yards as McBryde struggled in completing just six of 18 passes. Like clockwork, Reddic still got his numbers (26-170-1).
Kilgore righted the ship in a big way in week seven with a 30-0 win over Henderson. The Bulldogs picked off three passes to win the turnover battle 3-1 and allowed a measly 108 yards of offense. McBryde continued to struggle through the air (4-12 for 70 yards), but Reddic (14-96-2), Moon and Maddox all ran for at least 50 yards.
In week eight, Kilgore avoided a third loss by the slimmest of margins with a 34-31 win over Whitehouse. Both teams scored in every quarter as Whitehouse rolled up 461 yards of offense. Kilgore won the turnover battle 1-0.
While McBryde threw the ball four times, Reddic piled up astronomical numbers (44-334-4). Looking toward common opponents, Whitehouse beat Red Oak 17-10 this season.
“I think Kilgore has played some quality teams; most of them out in East Texas are pretty good with a tough mentality,” Harrell said.
“They haven’t faced many passing teams like we have around here, but Whitehouse has an outstanding quarterback-receiver combo that reminds me of our guys. They did throw the ball well against Kilgore (310 yards).”
Week nine didn’t carry as much suspense with a 35-7 Bulldog win over Jacksonville – a team that lost to Corsicana 28-21 this year. Kilgore lost the turnover battle 1-0, but it outgained Jacksonville 426-177.
McBryde had his biggest game of the year (10-17 for 181 yards, 2 touchdowns, interception), while receivers Ector (3-89) and Sanders (5-67-2) both made plays. Reddic (24-115-2) and Maddox (12-54-1) each ran to paydirt.
In the regular-season finale, Kilgore carried a shutout into the fourth quarter to beat Nacogdoches 27-14. While the Bulldogs lost the turnover battle 3-2, Sanders intercepted consecutive passes in the fourth quarter. Reddic (31-160-1) came up big as usual, but McBryde made the most of his three completions (122 yards, 2 scores) as Sanders also stepped up on offense (2-85-2).
Last week, Kilgore and Marshall met once again in bi-district play.
A second-quarter field goal proved to be the difference maker for the Bulldogs in a 31-28 victory as they also won the turnover battle 2-0. McBryde didn’t complete a single pass, but he didn’t have to as only seven of the team’s offensive plays didn’t involve a handoff to Reddic (53-347-3).
“Kilgore-Marshall is a big deal out there [in East Texas],” Harrell said.
“They play each other in non-district and then faced each other again in the playoffs; it was a huge game for Kilgore. We knew both teams were really good; Kilgore just battled them until the end of a close game and won it. Of course, [Reddic] carried the ball 53 times for 350 yards, which catches your attention.”

Kilgore offense in focus
Through the course of their season, the Bulldogs have usually been a good bet to protect the ball and not shoot themselves in the foot. Turnovers have been an issue at times, but Kilgore had six games this season where it turned the ball over once or less. The Bulldogs only committed eight or more penalties in three of their games thus far, and had very few in most of them.
“With Kilgore giving the ball to a strong guy like [Reddic] over and over on a lot of inside zone runs, you’re going to do a pretty good job keeping your turnovers down,” Harrell said.
“They kind of have a Bill Parcells philosophy – run the ball, be great on defense and play the field position game. It’s won nine ballgames for them and judging by past history under Coach [Mike] Vallery, this team doesn’t normally beat itself.”
The Bulldog offense is simple, as it primarily utilizes formations with either two tight ends or a tight end and a fullback. The plays are overwhelmingly Reddic runs with only about three different variations on where he’s headed.
“[Reddic] lines up about seven yards deep and does a good job of picking his holes,” Harrell said.
With the running back and offensive line the strength of the unit, McBryde (5-10, 180) isn’t asked to do much at the quarterback position (52-125-3 for 895 yards, 8 touchdowns). He has six carries on the season for negative-six yards and a score.
“You have to stop Reddic before the quarterback is forced to make plays,” the coach said.
“They won’t take risks trying to fool you if they don’t have to. McBryde has a decent arm to throw the deep ball pretty well, but he usually just manages the game.”
As far as Reddic (6-0, 195) goes, his season stats are pretty impressive (321-1,879-20). While he’s big, powerful and runs extremely hard, according to Harrell, Reddic probably won’t break a 70-yard touchdown on many teams.
“We haven’t seen a guy who carries the ball 53 times in a game this year and accounts for about 90 percent of his team’s offense,” Harrell said.
“He’s pretty glaringly the key to it all.”
Maddox (61-287-3) and Moon (38-225-2) have both had their moments on the ground this season, but Harrell doesn’t expect to see much of them in a close ballgame.
When Kilgore does throw the ball, Ector (5-7, 160) is the primary recipient (16-386-2). Sanders (6-0, 180) is also a receiver to keep an eye out for (11-234-5).
“Ector can outrun the wind and he’s dangerous on deep balls,” Harrell said.
“He reminds us of [former Lion] Vincent Marshall and you have to account for him on punt and kick returns too. He’ll make big plays if you don’t contain him.
“Sanders also does a good job. They’ll throw the ball to him; he’s just not as scary as Ector.”
As far as the offensive line goes, Harrell doesn’t mix words in his praise of the unit.
“The O-line is really strong and the best one we’ve seen all year when it comes to run blocking,” he said.
“They get down in a three-point stance and come off the ball very well.”

Bulldog defensive picture
Kilgore normally features four defensive linemen with Cover 4 in the secondary. Harrell said it’s a very athletic unit that flies to the ball.
The defensive line features size and strength, led by defensive end Dominique Jones (6-3, 230). He ranks fourth on the team with 62 tackles and has committed to play for the University of Texas.
“Jones is the best athlete on defense, but he also plays a lot of tight end,” Harrell said.
The coach also said Tyler Dennis (6-2, 200) and Shadow Stokes (6-2, 260) caught his eye along the defensive front.
At linebacker, Harrell is impressed by Mishaud Austin (5-11, 170). Not surprisingly, Austin leads Kilgore with 86 tackles.
“He’s quick and can really come downhill on you,” the coach said.
Harrell also noted the substantial size of inside linebacker Taylor Carter (6-2, 200). He’s second on the team with 72 tackles.
“They’re awfully athletic in the [secondary],” Harrell said.
“They break on running plays and pass plays well.”
Moon (5-7, 155) and Sanders both play safety, but they’ll each walk down to play outside linebacker at times. Moon is third on the team with 65 tackles, while Sanders is fifth with 54 takedowns. It’s definitely a team effort among the Kilgore defense considering that a whopping 11 players have at least 42 tackles this season.

State of the Lions
When Harrell reflects on last week’s 41-point win over Red Oak, there’s not much at all for him to be disappointed with.
“I was really pleased with the kids to perform like they did in that wind, especially the offense in the first quarter with those two scoring drives,” he said.
“I feel like we throw the ball in the wind about as well as anybody and everybody can run the ball in the wind, so we don’t feel like those conditions will affect our offense. It was good to see us stop Red Oak from running the ball like they wanted to; the defense stepped up and played big.”
By the same token, Harrell makes it clear he anticipates a much tougher game in Mesquite.
“You won’t beat Kilgore if you don’t come out ready to play,” he said.
“They’re a much better team than Red Oak and you won’t get much help from them. We have to win the old-fashioned way – line up and execute properly. Kilgore probably would be in trouble if we could jump out to a good lead on them, but that doesn’t happen much because of the way they play.”
Looking to the injury report, only Ronnie McCullar is expected to be out of action. At the same time, receiver Kyle Guinyard is dealing with a minor wrist injury and linebacker Jyavon King is still being worked back into the mix from a week-eight shoulder injury.
“Hopefully both of those guys can make a full contribution this week,” the coach said.
Harrell knows what his team must do to earn its eleventh win of 2008.
“We have to be great on first and second down defensively to put [Kilgore] in some third-and-long situations,” he said.
“We have to contain Ector with all the different ways he can touch the ball. This will be an extremely difficult game and we’ll have to play well to come out on top.”

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Posted by on Nov 20 2008. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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