Stephenville’s quest for back-to-back state championships came to an end Saturday afternoon when Kilgore blew past the Yellow Jackets 44-6 in the Class 3A Division I semifinals at Tiger Stadium.
“We got our lips bloodied,” Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie said. “[Kilgore] is a good football team; they came out ready to play and executed well.”
Kilgore (13-0) made sure revenge for the Bulldogs’ 42-32 semifinal loss to Stephenville last season happened early.
Kevrin Justice struck first with his 1-yard run in the opening quarter to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
With the Bulldogs’ notoriety for running the football, the Yellow Jackets put nine defenders in the box at times to try to stop the run. Quarterback Benny Colbert took advantage of their defensive gamble on a play-action pass, finding a wide-open Aaron Foy for 47 yards to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.
Kilgore was able to pad its lead to 28-0 before Stephenville found the end zone, behind touchdown runs from Jack Johnston, a 6-yarder, and Justice again, this time from 53 yards out.
Kaegun Williams prevented a shutout when the 14-year-old freshman running back powered his way past the goal line on a 10-yard carry. Williams finished with 126 yards on 18 carries for the Yellow Jackets.
Stephenville (12-2) was limited to only 209 yards of total offense, not even half of what the Yellow Jackets averaged on the season.
Jarrett Stidham came into the game with over 3,600 yards of total offense for the Yellow Jackets, but the junior quarterback battled a hamstring injury all game that limited him to 6-of-15 passing for 51 yards and his fifth interception this season.
“Their defense was good and our offense just wasn’t working,” Stidham said.
When asked if his hamstring was an issue, Stidham didn’t hesitate in his response: “I definitely wasn’t 100 percent today.”
Justice and the Kilgore rushing attack continued to have their way in the second half as the junior running back bolted 58 yards through the Stephenville defense to bump the Bulldogs’ lead to 34-6. Justice finished with a game-high 223 yards on 23 carries with three scores.
Senior defensive back Mookie Carlile was the leader for the Yellow Jackets’ defense all season, but their inability to stop the run led to Kilgore running for 482 yards.
“We just did not tackle well, it’s as simple as that,” Carlile said.
Davieonta “JuJu” Brown put the finishing touch on the game when he escaped a swarm of Yellow Jackets defenders for a 16-yard touchdown run.
The 3A Division I state championship will run through east Texas next week when Kilgore takes on Carthage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.