PORTER - El Campo’s Kevin Dove and Alontae Harris combined for 276 yards rushing and a couple of touchdownsin leading the Ricebirds to a 31-23 victory over Kilgore in a Class 4A Division I Region III area showdown on Friday night at Texan Drive Stadium.
The Ricebirds dominated the contest, more so in the first half by scoring 21 points in the second quarter to lead at halftime 28-9, effectively ending a Cinderella season by the Bulldogs, a team picked to finish no better than fourth in District 9-4A Division I when the season began in August.
With its ninth win, El Campo (9-3) advances to the regional round of the playoffs to face Silsbee, a 35-21 winner over Sealy, next week at a site and time to be determined.
Kilgore completed what many felt would be a rebuilding campaign after a four-win season a year ago with an 8-4 record, a share of the district championship, the top seed in the playoffs and in the second round of the UIL football playoffs in the third week of November.
El Campo, which has won five in a row since a 14-6 loss to Stafford, outgained Kilgore in total yardage, 368-270. The Ricebirds finished with 302 yards rushing on 47 carries. Ricebird quarterback Ernest Arrambide was 3 of 5 passing for 66 yards and a touchdown. He also scored the first touchdown of the contest on a 6-yard keeper.
The Bulldogs, behind a 92-yard rushing performance by Ja’Quorius Smith, and 69 yards by Patrick “Buddy” Jackson, were held to 190 yards on the ground. Jackson was 7 of 13 passing for 78 yards. After a slow start, the sophomore completed his last seven passes. Cole Wood led the Kilgore receiving corps with three catches for 23 yards. Smith, A.J. Henson and Chris Toombs also had catches.
Kilgore struggled stopping the run game early and hurt itself numerous times with penalties, which wiped out big plays offensively. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs rallied back to make a contest of it, outscoring El Campo 14-3 in the second half.
The Ricebirds scored the first time they got the football, driving 40 yards after a short punt by Kilgore. El Campo used its ground game to move methodically 40 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on Arrambide’s 6-yard keeper.
Kilgore answered with a 42-yard Christian Galvan field goal with 10:53 remaining in the second quarter.
El Campo came right back, though, scoring three times in the next 8 minutes, getting a couple of big runs of 50 and 46 yards for touchdowns by Harris around a 13-yard completion from Arrambide to his brother Wesley Arrambide to stretch its advantage to 28-3.
Fortunately, Kilgore put together an eight-play, 53-yard scoring march with Smith doing the honors on a 3-yard scoring dash with just 53 seconds remaining in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 19, after the extra point was blocked.
The Bulldogs added points on their first possession of the third quarter as Jackson completed a scoring strike to Smith with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter. Galvan’s point-after was good and Kilgore trailed by 12, 28-16.
The Kilgore defense provided a key stop and El Campo was forced to kick a 36-yard field goal, which Xavier Mireles converted with 11:23 left to play in the game.
Devin Lawler’s 31-yard kickoff return gave Kilgore excellent field position and Smith whittled into the Ricebird lead with a 32-yard scoring run with 8:47 remaining.
The Bulldog defense held again and Kilgore took over at the 50. Smith broke through and reached inside the El Campo 20, but a holding penalty nullified the gain. Kilgore was stopped on its next three plays and elected to punt when the drive stalled. El Campo used its running game and a key 31-yard completion from Arrambide to Arrambide for a first down to dash any waning hopes Kilgore had.
Class 4A Division I Region III
@Texan Drive Stadium, Porter
EL CAMPO 31, KILGORE 23
SCORE BY QUARTERS
El Campo 7 21 0 3 – 31
Kilgore 0 9 77 –23