Freshman quarterback Randy Price ignited a second-half inferno for Tyler Junior College, which overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Kilgore, 42-35, Saturday and clinch the final playoff berth in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
Price accounted for 201 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the second half, getting all 90 of his rushing yards after Kilgore had taken a 28-7 lead with 11:25 to play in the third quarter.
“We felt they couldn’t defend (the quarterback power run),” Price said. “We threw a wrinkle into the offense because they were stopping everything we were doing. It worked out for us.”
Even after the Apaches tied the game at 28-all, the Rangers regained a 35-28 lead before the third quarter was finished.
TJC then outscored Kilgore 14-0 in the final period for a memorable TJC homecoming at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Apaches (6-3, 3-3 SWJCFC) will travel to Brenham next Saturday to play top-ranked Blinn in the conference semifinals. Kilgore’s season is over at 3-6 and 2-4.
Carthage graduate Jalen Claiborne turned a short pass in the flat into a 35-yard touchdown to bring the Apaches even at 35-35 with 12:39 remaining. Sophomore linebacker Rikko Harris intercepted a Kilgore pass on the next series, and TJC drove 54 yards in seven plays for the decisive touchdown — a Chason White 2-yard run on his only carry of the day.
Freshman wideout Tracy Smith put the Apaches in position with a leaping 27-yard reception on a post route. Price, from Waco University, hit on 10 of 17 passes for 179 yards and two TDs. Smith, from Arlington Lamar, finished with seven catches for 80 yards.
Kilgore threatened to force overtime as the Rangers were on offense for 16 plays as the final minutes ticked away. A 15-yard penalty on TJC pulled Kilgore out of a hole, and KC sophomore Ricky Collins had a 34-yard touchdown run wiped out by a holding call with 50 seconds left.
The TJC defense forced an incomplete pass in the end zone on Kilgore’s final play from the 18.
After getting outplayed and outhit for the first 30 minutes, the Apaches looked like a different team in the second half. That seemed to start with Price, who opened the game at quarterback but gave way to Tyrik Rollison in the second quarter.
“It seemed like our D-line and O-line were getting smashed and we came out in the second half and our O-line picked it up and really that’s what led us to victory,” Price said. “That (momentum) just ran through the whole team. It was a great win for us.”
His team trailing by three touchdowns, Price put the Apaches in the end zone in three plays to infuse life into the home team. The comeback began with quarterback sneaks for 13 and 18 yards, and then a 33-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dmarjai Devine of Longview.
TJC added 14 more points in a span of 2 minutes, 16 seconds to make it 28-28.
Price ran a sweep 37 yards for a score and got the ball back quickly after John Tyler graduate Billy Thompkins picked off a Kilgore pass and returned it 26 yards to the KC 8. Three plays later, Ryan Young scored from the 2.
Price wasn’t perfect. He was intercepted late in the third quarter, which turned into a Kilgore go-ahead touchdown after the Rangers covered 45 yards in eight plays. But the Apaches answered right back with a seven-play, 61-yard march that culminated with Claiborne’s tying touchdown at 35-35.
TJC was almost shut out in the first half as Kilgore led 21-7 at the break.
“We got a little bit too fancy in the first half,” said TJC coach Danny Palmer, who has the Apaches in the playoffs for the second time in five years.
The Apaches crossed midfield on their first two drives of the game, turning the ball over on downs and then failing to execute a 29-yard field goal.
Kilgore scored on its first series, traveling 59 yards in four plays for a 7-0 lead. The key play was when Collins, a former JT standout, completed a wide receiver pass to Jacolby Stokes for 34 yards to set up Ja’mell Woodard’s 12-yard touchdown run up the middle.
The TJC offense sputtered on its next four possessions with a total of 23 yards while Kilgore grabbed a 14-0 lead. Collins gave the Rangers a short field with a 48-yard punt return, and Kilgore found the end zone five plays later with Woodard’s second touchdown with 14:48 left in the second quarter.
The Apaches put a complete drive together after forcing Kilgore’s second punt, marching 71 yards in eight plays and scoring on Young’s 1-yard plunge to make it 14-7. O’Bryan Washington ignited the drive with three good runs, and Rollison completed a 33-yard pass to fullback Rodney Hall.
Unfazed, the Rangers covered 58 yards in seven plays and regained a two-touchdown lead with 22 seconds left until halftime. Backup quarterback Tyler Copeland converted a third-and-1 with a short keeper, and Jamal Anderson broke off a 43-yard run on the next play.
Copeland then ran three straight quarterback sneaks and scored from the 1.
Tyler 42, Kilgore 35
At Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Kilgore 7 14 14 0 — 35
Tyler 0 7 21 14 — 42
KC—Ja’mell Woodard 12 run (Dylan Nowak kick), 9:40.
KC—Woodard 6 run (Nowak kick), 14:48.
TJC—Ryan Young 1 run (Isaac Arellano kick), 3:21.
KC—Tyler Copeland 1 run (Nowak kick), :22.
KC—Vincent Moore 1 run (Nowak kick), 11:25.
TJC—Dmarjai Devine 33 pass from Randy Price (Arellano kick), 10:44.
TJC—Price 37 run (Arellano kick), 6:37.
TJC—Young 2 run (Arellano kick), 4:21.
KC—Woodard 9 run (Nowak kick), :33.
TJC—Jalen Claiborne 35 pass from Price (Arellano kick), 12:39.
TJC—Chason White 2 run (Arellano kick), 9:00.
EST. ATT. – 7,250.
First Downs 24 20
Rushes-Yards 59-259 41-208
Passing Yards 177 267
Comp.-Att.-Int. 16-29-3 16-27-2
Punts-Avg. 4-38.5 4-42.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 10-95 10-104
RUSHING—Kilgore, Vincent Moore 26-120, Ja’mell Woodard 11-61, Jamal Anderson 8-42, Ricky Collins 2-39, Tyler Copeland 6-2, Andrew Jackson 6-(minus 5). Tyler, Randy Price 11-90, Ryan Young 18-70, O’Bryan Washington 6-37, Rodney Hall 3-10, Chason White 1-2, Randall Weeks 1-1, Team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Kilgore, Jackson 8-16-2—57, Copeland 7-11-1—86, Collins 1-1-0—34, Collin Bradley 0-1-0. Tyler, Price 10-17-1—179, Tyrik Rollison 6-10-1—88.
RECEIVING—Kilgore, Collins 7-53, Carey Fortson 3-61, Jacolby Stokes 3-47, Ed’Marques Batties 2-8, Moore 1-8. Tyler, Tracy Smith 7-80, Weeks 2-48, Jalen Claiborne 2-44, Marquis Smith 2-28, Hall 1-33, Dmarjai Devine 1-33, Young 1-1.