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Kilgore defense smothers Lions

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 Jerren James breaks away for a 45-yard touchdown. Jerren James breaks away for a 45-yard touchdown.

By Brian Besch
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Livingston football closed the 2023 season Friday night with a loss in the bi-district round to Kilgore, with a score of 49-8.

The Lions, led by the defense, were in a competitive game in the first quarter. The offense controlled the ball on a time-consuming drive that ended in a fumble. The two teams fought to a scoreless tie as they changed ends of the field, but it wouldn’t take long after for Kilgore to awaken.

Twelve seconds into the second quarter, the Bulldogs scored the first of what would be three second-quarter touchdowns and go into the half up 21-0.

Livingston would finally respond in the third quarter. With just under seven minutes to go in the period, a nine-play drive was capped by Jerren James going off tackle for 45 yards and over the goal line. James would also receive the handoff and convert the two-point try, closing the gap to 21-8.

“For three quarters, we played them with everything we had,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said. “Once we started getting some dinged up – we were just getting consistent on offense and (then) started turning the ball over again. We got it rolling, but we gave up a score defensively and they stretched it back out to 28-8. We were out of tight ends, with every one of them hurt. We had to reshuffle and do some crazy formations. At one time, we had three freshmen on the field and four sophomores filling in. They had just gotten moved up from the J.V. They all played their hearts out, but those guys are everything that is written about them. They are talented and we fought them for three quarters at different times. When they start breaking those big ones and they get hot, they are hard to control.”

Four fourth-quarter touchdowns made it look more lopsided than was the case for much of the contest. However, the state’s No. 3 team was too much for a Lion group short on depth.

Livingston rushed for 233 yards, but had just six more through the air. James was the top gainer with 93 yards on 14 attempts, while quarterback Damorian Hill had 65 rushing yards. Kilgore rushed for 270 yards and threw for another 163. Quarterback Derrick Williams was a dual threat, adding 99 rushing yards.  

The Lions will lose 21 seniors off the 2023 squad. The class is one of the more successful in recent Livingston history.

“They worked their tails off and committed and dedicated to it,” Vanover said. “I told them that the last five or six weeks, I could not thank them enough for working hard in practice every day to get ready. It seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong. They gave us all that they had and everything every day. They were committed to each other and the coaches, and did all the things that a good high school team is supposed to do. We are just not ready to be in that league with those guys yet.”

During their time in high school, the seniors made a trip to the postseason in three of the four years.

“There aren’t many senior classes that have been able to do that in the school. That is important. We didn’t fare very well, but we played some good and great teams. This one is picked to win the title and they just beat the mess out of Chapel Hill the other week. Chapel Hill two years ago beat us and went to the semifinals. That district is big time. Our district hasn’t fared very well against them at any of the levels. This bunch (of Lion seniors) has done a lot of things that nobody else here has done.”

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