Records

Pine Tree: 1-1

Kilgore: 2-0

Stadium: R.E. St. John Memorial, Kilgore

Coaches

Pine Tree: Kerry Lane (4th year, 12-22)

Kilgore: Mike Wood (10th year, 71-42)

Last week: Pittsburg 42, Pine Tree 30; Kilgore 48, Hallsville 24

Up next: Pine Tree is open; Texas High at Kilgore

Series: Kilgore leads 30-11-1

WHEN PINE TREE HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Pine Tree: QB DJ Freeman (30 of 54 passing, 554 yards, 5 TDs) ... WR Gabe Adams (13 receptions, 329 yards, 5 TDs) ... RB Jayden Smith (24 carries, 156 yards, 2 TDs)... RB Tyler Sheffield (19 carries, 126 yards, 2 TDs)

Kilgore: MLB Brian Brown (20 tackles, 1 INT) ... DB Donovan Adkins (17 tackles, 1 INT) ... DT Deundre Blanton (11 tackles, 2 sacks) … OLB Jayce McFarland (12 tackles, 1 INT)

Keys: Pine Tree’s offense is most efficient when it has both its ground and air attack working in concert. In last week’s 42-30 loss to Pittsburg, the ground game was literally grounded and rendered ineffective. The Pirates only mustered a 1.8 average and had to rely almost exclusively on their passing game. Kilgore’s run defense is stout led by tackle Deundre Blanton. The Bulldogs also have a ball-hawking defense that’s already picked three passes the first two weeks. Junior Pirate QB D.J. Freeman has completed 56% of his passes for 554 yards, 5 TDs and zero interceptions. He’s at his best when he has time to look for a receiver and only use his feet when necessary. The Pirates need a rushing performance more similar to their 47-30 season-opening victory at Bullard. Pine Tree rolled up 404 yards on the ground and a gaudy 11.2 average per touch. Freeman, Jayden Smith and Tyler Sheffield all passed the 100-yard plateau. For the Pirates to success tonight they’ll need to strike a balance on land and air. Gabe Adams has been nothing short of spectacular the first two weeks and can certainly expect the possibility of double teams from a physical Kilgore secondary. Adams, who holds a D1 offer from New Mexico State, has hauled in 13 passes for 329 yards (25.3 avg.) and 5 TDs.

He said it: “This is your typical Kilgore team. They’re well-coached and huge up front on defense. They’ll be in the right spots and play really really hard. The big thing for us is just staying on schedule … taking some shots in places when we have them. We can’t do like we did last week and sputter early and put ourselves in a hole,” Kerry Lane.

“Pine Tree has a very explosive offense. They also play well on defense and in the special teams. You’ve always got to be aware of (D.J.) Freeman. He can hurt you in so many ways. It’s gonna be important we stay in our passing lanes on defense. I’m pleased with how we’ve performed to this point, but we’ve still got a lot to work on before district starts. That’s why we schedule the we do and play good 5A teams like Pine Tree,” Mike Wood.

WHEN KILGORE HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Kilgore: RB Trayveon Epps (29 carries, 236 yards, 2 TDs) .. RB Kennieth Lacy (22 carries, 254 yards, 5 TDs) ... QB Dalton McElyea (18 of 31 passing, 181 yards, 2 TDs) ... WR Donovan Adkins (2 receptions, 65 yards, 1 TD)

Pine Tree: CB Keelan Turner (12 tackles) ... SS Keith Wright (13 tackles) ... OLB Sam Williams (15 tackles) ... DL Colton Munoz (9 tackles)

Keys: Long known for its ground-and-pound approach, Kilgore has opened it up a little in 2019. Junior Dalton McElyea has connected on 18 of 31 passes (58%) for 181 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. He’s spread the wealth by pairing up with nine different receivers. But, inasmuch as the Bulldogs may be throwing with more frequency, they still hang their hat on having the ability to move the chains with hard-nosed running. McElyea is joined in the backfield by senior Kennieth Lacy and junior Trayveon Epps. Both are dangerous in open field, but will lower their pads and get the tough yards. Lacy has been a touchdown machine in wins of Nacogdoches and Hallsville. He leads the Bulldogs with 254 yards on 22 carries and 5 TDs, while Epps is more the workhorse with a team-leading 29 touches for 236 yards and 2 TDs. Kilgore went from one explosive play (20+ yards or more) against Nac in the opener to eight explosive plays against Hallsville. The Bulldogs could be rounding into form at just the right time.

Twitter sized preview: Kilgore holds dominion in the head-to-head with Pine Tree, but the Pirates broke though last year with a 38-28 victory. That win snapped a drought which went all the way back to 1990.

George Whitley

George Whitley