Kilgore secondary knows how to control air attacks
Dec. 18, 2013 at 10 p.m.
KILGORE - Jeffrey Sanders didn't waste much time establishing himself in the Kilgore secondary.
The senior defensive back picked off the first pass attempt from an opposing quarterback in the Bulldogs' season opener.
And it's only gotten better since then for the Kilgore secondary.
"I was like 'Dang, is it going to be this easy?' Sanders laughed. "It was pretty exciting to start the season like that.
"Going in, this team was fired up - we were looking for revenge, we were looking to get to the state title and here we are."
That pick-six came more than three months ago in a 42-7 win over Marshall and now, like Sanders and the Bulldogs anticipated, Kilgore is back playing for it all.
Sanders and company have been a big part in that, with the secondary combining for 17 interceptions and breaking up 37 passes. Sanders pulled down number five in the state semifinal round against Stephenville to pace the Bulldogs. Aaron Foy and Jake Brantley have four each.
After figuring out their places early in the season, the Kilgore defense enters Friday's state title bout against Carthage holding opponents to 160 yards per contest through the air - complimenting a paltry 86 rushing yards per contest.
"The biggest thing is that those kids have really learned the concepts of the secondary," Kilgore head coach Mike Wood said. "Three of them were new back there and to come in and develop like they have against the great passing teams that we've seen - to be able to take routes away, force opposing quarterbacks to look at their second or third reads to allow us to pass rush and get pressure - has been a big key for us."
Branley added: "We've come together great after rotating a little bit early on but we've found our spots and have continued to improve every week."
Foy does a little bit of everything for Kilgore, registering 34 tackles, eight passes broken up and two sacks t with 13 catches for 394 yards and five touchdowns for the Bulldog offense.
"I think it gives me an edge (playing both ways)," said Foy, who picked up an offer from Navarro this past week. "I can get a pretty good idea of what routes the receivers are going to run by looking at their eyes and their heads.
"When I'm on defense, I like to press. ...not let them get off the line."
Tackling has played a big part in the backfield whether opponents are throwing or running the ball against a defense that has forced 49 three-and-outs this season.
"We like to hit," Brantley said. "It's a big part of what we do. Every practice, the pads are popping. We know that when we hit them, they have to go down."
Foy echoed his teammates' keys as Kilgore faces a high-flying passing team in Carthage.
"We're going to have to cover tight and tackle. ...make first tackles," he said. "We've got to bring them down on first touch."
Facing pass-heavy teams like the likes of Chapel Hill - twice - and Stephenville have prepped the Bulldogs for Friday.
"Carthage passes the ball on a different level," Wood said. "The size and speed of their receivers make it a different challenge. You get too many one-on-one matchups and they're going to take their shot. (Carthage quarterback Blake) Bogenschutz can certainly put the ball where it needs to be."
But Brantley said that Kilgore's physicality is going to be a key against Carthage.
"I expect them to come our first and try to hit, but once they see how physical we are, we can get them to lay down a little bit," he said. "We've got to hit them early and hard. ...no yards after the catch."
While the Carthage offense presents a daunting task, Foy knows that the experience and unity in the secondary will prevail for Kilgore and the reason is simple.
"We've come together and are really playing as a team," Foy said. "We keep our heads up when the other team makes a play. We keep our heads in the game and don't let it us discourage us.
"We just do our jobs."
<em>(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/hayden_h" target="_blank">@hayden_h</a>)</em>