NEW CHAPEL HILL — Kilgore running back Tray Epps set new single-season school records for touchdowns and yardage in a game, as the Battle of Bulldogs with Chapel Hill turned from laugher to tight game, and then finally, a 45-38 Kilgore victory.
Epps finished with 400 yards on the nose along with six touchdowns – all of Kilgore’s touchdowns in the game – to help carry the Bulldogs over the finish line and to a District 9-4A, Division I win over the “other” Bulldogs, homestanding Chapel Hill, who trailed 28-7 at the half and then came roaring back.
Epps had four first-half touchdowns, some of them set up by passes from Dalton McElyea to his receivers, and Kilgore built a 21-0 lead. Chapel Hill added a touchdown, a 5-yarder by Tyson Berry, in the second quarter, and then Epps burst free for another, this one from 51 yards out, to get touchdown number four. Chris Baldazo was good on every single extra point (6-of-6) and would go on to hit a second-half field goal.
In the third quarter, though, here came Chapel Hill. Quarterback Cameron Ford found Berry again, this time on an 18-yard pass, for a score to get Chapel Hill within two touchdowns.
Then lightning struck. And it wasn’t good for Kilgore.
A Kilgore fumble early on the next drive was on the turf and recovered by Max Richardson, who grabbed it and ran it in – 53 yards on the fumble return for a score and two Chapel Hill touchdowns within seconds on the game clock. The extra point brought Chapel Hill within a touchdown, 28-21.
Kilgore got close enough on its next drive for Baldazo, who had missed a field goal in the first half, to hit on this one, a 33-yarder that gave Kilgore a 31-21 lead.
Kilgore would need every single point it could get on this night.
Chapel Hill’s offense sputtered on the next drive, and Kilgore made them pay, another Epps touchdown run – 85 yards – and Kilgore went up 38-21. It appeared that might have knocked wind out of Chapel Hill’s sails, but no. Jahade Adams took the ensuing kickoff back 87 yards to get Chapel Hill right back to the 10-point deficit, 38-28.
They recovered an onside kick and would score again, a 33-yard pass to Alonzo McGregor, who had a night only overshadowed by Epps (McGregor had 272 yards receiving).
That made it 38-35 Kilgore, but Epps had one more in him. With 3:20 left, Epps capped the night with his sixth touchdown, a 60-yard run that gave him the record all by himself – three previous players had five touchdowns in a game.
Kilgore’s defense forced Chapel Hill into a final-minute field goal, but the 45-38 would be the final score. Chapel Hill failed to recover the onside kick, and Kilgore ran out the clock’s remaining seconds.
Epps not only gets the single-game touchdown record, breaking it with six, but also the single-game rushing record with those 400 yards. Epps’ yard total eclipsed the old record for yards in a single game, held by the late LaDarius Anthony, who set the mark in a 359-yard performance against Palestine in 2009.
For Chapel Hill, Ford finished 17-of-31 for 389 yards passing, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Berry had five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, and a rushing touchdown. McGregor had eight catches for an amazing 272 yards and a touchdown.
For Kilgore in addition to Epps, quarterback Dalton McElyea completed 7-of-18 passes for 140 yards. Cade Pippen, Jermaine Roney, Corey Rider and Brian Brown each caught two passes, Brown for 81 yards.