High School Football

Kennedale punches a ticket to the state semifinals for the second year running

Kennedale used big plays and a strong rushing attack to roll past Kaufman 63-36 in a 4A Division I Region I final at The Ford Center at The Star.

It’s the second straight year, and the second time in history, that the Wildcats have advanced to the state semifinals. Last year, Kennedale lost to Abilene Wylie 21-13 just two wins away from a state championship.

Wildcats running back Jaden Knowles rushed for three touchdowns, D.J. Kirven carried for two more and defensive back Larry Brooks scored on both a fumble and punt return.

The Wildcats scored on six plays of 44 yards or longer while piling up 438 yards rushing. Kennedale averaged almost 14 yards per carry.

Kennedale (13-1) advances to the 4A state semifinals, where it will face Stephenville on Friday at AT&T Stadium. Kaufman ends its season at 12-2.

Knowles rushed for 272 yards on 15 carries, scoring on touchdowns runs of 68, 18 and 75 yards. Kirven added 117 yards on 10 carries, scoring on runs of 58 and three yards. David Roper added a 44-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Brooks, a 6-0, 185-pound defensive back, sparked Kennedale. He scored on a 44-yard fumble recovery and a 45-yard punt return. He had an important tackle for a loss, plus had a 93-yard kickoff return and a two-point conversion out0f a trick formation both called back by penalties. All this came in the first half as the Wildcats built a 35-14 lead.

Kaufman quarterback Trey Collier passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another. He passed for 208 yards and rushed for 99. Lions receiver Cecil Gasper caught six passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, plus rushed for a 9-yard touchdown.

In the second quarter, the Wildcats scored two touchdowns on plays in which Kaufman dropped back to punt. On the first, Brooks scored on a 44-yard punt return that featured two blocks that earned cheers from the crowd. On the second, the Kaufman snap from the Lions’ 30 went past the punter and was recovered by Kennedale’s Marlete Joyner in the end zone.

Kennedale led 28-14 despite having run just 10 plays on offense.

The Lions dominated the first-quarter stats. They piled up twice the yardage (160-78), almost six times the number of plays (23-4), and nine times the first downs (9-1). But Kaufman held just a one-point lead, 14-13, and that was because Kennedale missed wide left on a point-after attempt.

Kennedale needed only two plays to score its first two touchdowns, Brooks’ fumble return and Knowles’ 68-yard run.