PALESTINE – Senior defensive lineman Elvin Calhoun said last year, following their 21-7 win over the Kilgore Bulldogs, was when he felt this team realized they could be a contending playoff team.
The Wildcats were coming off of back-to-back district losses against Van and Carthage with two games left games until playoffs. Kilgore had just beat Van 20-14 the week prior.
The Wildcats hosted the Bulldogs on the first Friday in November and the win sparked a four-game winning streak that ended in the regional round of the playoffs.
This year, Palestine opens District 9-4A play against Kilgore inside Wildcat Stadium Friday. The Wildcats are coming off a 14-7 loss against a Waco Connally team who was 12-1 in 2019 and regional semifinalist.
Kilgore enters Friday after losing 35-28 to the Class 3A Gladewater Bears. The Bulldogs have 21 returners from their 2019 team that posted a 5-6 record following their loss in the bi-district round – including quarterback Dalton McElyea who passed for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
They lost 27-7 in their season opener against Carthage, before stacking back-to-back wins over Terrell (26-7) and Alvarado (45-0). Dave Campbell predicted Kilgore to be the second-best team in the district this year – ahead of fourth-ranked Palestine.
Players to watch: Palestine's defensive line continues to be the stand out unit week-in and week-out against opposing teams. Combined they have 13 tackles for loss and 29 quarterback pressures – led by Daelan Williams eight and Shedrick Dudley's seven. Their defensive line will need to provide constant pressure against a Kilgore offense that thrives in passing the ball – averaging 202 yards per game.
The Wildcats are allowing a little under 140 yards passing per game. On the opposite end, Jakaryon Conley and Shedrick Dudley have been the lead backs for the Wildcats. Kilgore gave up 250 yards rushing to Gladewater last week and 147 yards to Alvarado, despite beating them 45-0.
Conley is averaging a little over five yards per carrying, while Dudley is over seven and leading the pack in touchdowns with four. A couple of weeks ago, Coach Angel described Dudley as the “prototypical fullback for this offense.”
The Bulldog's offense runs primarily through their quarterback – Dalton McElyea. He threw for 338 yards in their loss against Gladewater and 248 against Alvarado. He also has a bundle of weapons at his disposal in running back Tray Epps and receivers Donovan Adkins and Jermaine Roney.
Adkins also doubles as the team's lead defensive back. He has three passes defended and an interception on his stat line through four games and was selected as Texas Football's preseason defensive district MVP.
However, perhaps his most impactful game came on the offensive side when he caught four passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns against Alvarado.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.