NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Two of the best football teams in any UIL classification — one a two-time 4A Division II defending state champion on a 30-game win streak and the other a state championship semifinalist — will meet Friday at Dragon Stadium.
While the Associated Press and Texas HS Football No. 2 ranked West Orange-Stark High School hold the state’s longest current winning streak at 30 games, the matchup against AP No. 6 and Texas HS Football No. 5 Kennedale High School may be the toughest regular-season opponent they face all season.
GROUND AND POUND
Kennedale, behind Jaden Knowles’ 616 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 58 carries (10.6 YPC) and DJ Kirven’s 576 yards and 14 touchdowns on 53 carries (10.3 YPC), has outscored opponents 224-52 in four games. Against Whitehouse High School last Friday, Kirven ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns and Jaden Knowles ran for 271 yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats outscored Whitehouse 35-0 in the final three-quarters of the game.
Kennedale has four backs — Kirven, Knowles, Evan Jowers and David Roper — with at least 100 yards rushing. Three of the four have at least one touchdown and JD Coffey is 8 yards away from joining the group.
Jowers, the Wildcats’ starter under center, has also powered the offense through drives with his arm, finding receivers 11 times for 203 yards. One of those receptions found the end zone and the waiting hands of leading receiver Jaden Smith (4 rec, 102 yards, 1 TD).
CALL IN THE ‘CHAIN GANG’
Kennedale faces a West Orange-Stark “Chain Gang” defense that had has had historical success shutting down the Wing-T and Slot-T run-based offenses — including Kennedale’s in last year’s matchup. West Orange-Stark had allowed only two points before the matchup and held Kennedale without a first down until the 10:34 mark of the second quarter.
The Wildcats gained only 78 total yards and picked up only three first downs in the first two quarters but found life in the second half powered by Knowles’ 152 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Kennedale gained 251 yards in the second half with most of those coming after West Orange-Stark took a 38-0 lead.
Graduated quarterback Jack Dallas passed for 257 yards and two touchdowns and West Orange-Stark accumulated 480 total yards and 29 first downs.
During the 2016 loss, the Wildcats were held to 21 points and scoreless in the first two quarters. They were one of three teams to score more than seven points against West Orange-Stark last season. A year later, only Silsbee High School has accomplished that feat, notching 17 points against one of the state’s most daunting defenses. Bridge City and KIPP Northeast scored only six.
WATSON, I PRESUME
Junior Chaka Watson, who took the reigns of the Mustangs’ high-powered offense for Dallas, guided West Orange-Stark against Silsbee, passing for 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns.Starting running back Kavyn Cooper gained 199 yards on the ground and scored a pair of touchdowns — the game’s final 14 points.
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