FORNEY — Responding to the challenge no matter the size is a priority more so during the playoffs than any other time of the season.
Kilgore football coach Mike Wood was pleased with the way his Bulldogs answered the bell in the opening round of the playoffs, defeating Athens just a week after dropping a 20-14 decision to Gilmer to determine the District 16-3A champion.
His opposite on the sideline tonight at City Bank Stadium, Paris' Barry Bowman talked about a sigh of relief as the Wildcats advanced to the second round of the playoffs despite a lot of penalties and turnovers in their win against Kaufman.
Kickoff for the Class 3A Division I, Region II showdown between the Bulldogs (9-1) and Wildcats (8-3) is 6 p.m.
Penalties and turnovers lead to sleepless nights for coaches. They're also more often than not the ruin of a good game plan.
"We were very fortunate the other night," said Bowman, who's teams at Daingerfield won three straight state championships. "Normally, you have 20 penalties (for 138 yards) and turn the football over like we did (five times) you get beat."
The Wildcats' 27-19 win over Kaufman was the program's first since 1988 when Paris won the 4A state championship. The Wildcats reached the playoffs a year ago, but lost to Henderson in the first round.
The key for Paris, which held Kaufman to less than 150 yards of total offense, is to use its defense, anchored by a trio of linebackers (Jamal Black, Brickey Reed and Jordan Williams) and defensive end Corwin Cary, to keep Kilgore's offense, which averages 30.8 points per game, off the field as much as possible.
"We need to get them in second- and third-and-long situations," Bowman said.
Reed, a junior, leads the Wildcats in tackles with 98. Black follows with 96 and leads in sacks with seven, while Williams, a sophomore, has 82 tackles. Cary follows Black in sacks with six.
The Kilgore offense averages 294.4 yards per contest. Kilgore is primarily a run team that features three backs: Austin Jordan (98-715), JuJu Brown (121-559) and Cornelius Bell (22-123). Quarterback Cooper Coldiron has completed 54 of 101 passes for 1,093 yards. His favorite receivers are Aaron Foy (16-383, 4), Nick Orange (8-145, 2) and Q Brewster (8-143).
Paris has its own playmakers in quarterback Dakota Smith and running back Quay Scott along with receivers Kadarius Scott and Keandre Robinson. The Wildcats average 29.9 points per game and allow 21.8, but in the last five games are averaging 41.6. Paris likes to get opponents in space and let its playmakers work.
"They spread you out and want to get you in space," Wood said. "They're really fast and that's another concern for us."
Smith has passed for 1,500 yards in 7ﾽ games and Quay Scott and Robinson have each rushed for 500 yards. It's another test for the Kilgore defense, which is allowing a touchdown per contest and has not allowed any opponent more than Gilmer scored (20) two weeks ago.
Middle linebacker A.J. Davis leads the Kilgore defense with 123 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, one sack and two forced fumbles. Other playmakers on the defensive side of the football have been defensive tackle LaDarrin Anthony (81 tackles, 19 for loss, 8.5 sacks), corners Benny Colbert (40 tackles, four interceptions) and Q Brewster (25 tackles, four interceptions) and linebacker Jake Brantley (87 tackles, seven for loss, two sacks and two interceptions).
If you don't respond to the challenge and overcome a few obstacles, generally speaking, your time in the playoffs is rather short-lived.
Paris vs. Kilgore
What: Class 3A, Division I Region II semifinal
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Forney ISD City Bank Stadium
Records: Paris 8-3; Kilgore 9-1
Last Week's Results: Paris 27, Kaufman 19; Kilgore 42, Athens 7
2011 Result: Did not play
Quick Slant: Paris DE/LB Sed Ellis, a senior, is a verbal commit to the University of North Texas. These teams are 6-6 against each other all-time. Paris won the first meeting in 1945, 12-0, while Kilgore won the last time they met in 1997, 42-0.
Next Up: Winner vs. Gainesville-Princeton winner, Region II final.