PALESTINE – The Palestine Wildcats inched closer to ending their three-year playoff drought, following the team's 21-7 defeat of Kilgore Friday night.
“Our kids were confident all week,” head coach Lance Angel said. “Coming off of two losses it takes some guts to come out and play as they did. I'm proud of them.”
When a run-oriented offense dominates the time of possession good things happen.
The Wildcats dominated the ball in their district win over the Bulldogs with an 11-minute margin in possession at the half.
The night started shakily for both offenses with a pair of three-and-outs. Palestine quickly shifted into gear on their next drive, composing a 15-play, 61-yard drive that drained more than seven minutes off the clock.
A heavy dose of Jeremiah Davis was featured as he touched the ball nine times before capping a lengthy drive off with a three-yard touchdown run. The senior's 73-yard first-half performance helped the Wildcats rack up 113 yards on the ground by half.
Palestine's front seven continued to stifle the Kilgore offense, whose first two plays netted a negative seven yards. A blitzing Keshawn Nonette squelched a third-down attempt.
The Wildcats began to compile another tedious but productive drive with the first quarter winding down. Davis shot free for a 10-yard gain on the second play of the drive before Nonette fought for a solid nine-yard pickup a couple plays later.
Davis broke loose for a 16-yard gain down to the Kilgore 17, which set up his second touchdown a few plays later off of a three-yard sprint to the right pylon.
The 11-play drive left little more than six minutes for Kilgore before half. Once again, their offense stumbled, and Palestine had an opportunity to take a 21-0 lead into half.
Another potent rushing attack got them inside Kilgore's 25 before the Bulldogs were able to hold them on a fourth-down attempt. Kilgore's final drive of the half ended with a Tayon Huntley interception.
At halftime, Palestine carried a 38-16 play advantage.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter looking as if proper adjustments had been made. After managing under 10 yards rushing in the first half, Kilgore compiled 76 yards on the ground during their 11-play scoring drive at the top of the third.
Leading 14-7, Palestine came right back. Davis began the drive with a five and six-yard carry. The Wildcats' heavy rushing attack opened the lane for some play action near midfield, allowing quarterback Christian Hutchinson to find Quinton Cook streaking down the middle of the field.
“Obviously as the season went on we knew it was going to come down to these last two games,” Angel said. “There's some stuff we had that we've held back for this game and the next one. We executed when we needed to.”
The 27-yard gain set the offense up on Kilgore's 24-yard line. Two plays later, on third down, Hutchinson hit Marquis Thompson on a quick bubble screen that went for a 25-yard touchdown.
With two minutes left in the third, Kilgore needed a quick score. They moved the ball within striking distance to Palestine's 16-yard line. A needed fourth-down conversion failed on an ill-advised throw into double coverage.
The 15-play drive took nearly six minutes off the clock and resulted in zero points. Palestine scratched off another three minutes on their drive but ultimately was forced to punt for the first time since their opening possession.
The Bulldogs bowed out in seven plays on their final drive with two straight incompletions, securing Palestine's first win over Kilgore since 2002.
“We'll enjoy this one now and try to go play great next week,” Angel said.