KENNEDALE - It was easy to see early and often why the Kennedale Wildcats are the No. 4-ranked team in Class 4A, as they scored on the game’s first three possessions Friday night en route to a comfortable 62-21 district win.
In a display of dominance, two of the Wildcats’ first three touchdowns came while the Mineral Wells offense had the ball. After a Wildcat opening drive resulted in a De’shaun Kirven 10-yard carry to make it 6-0, the Rams offense committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions, and the Wildcats pounced.
On their opening drive, the Rams worked the ball into Kennedale territory near the 30 yard line before running back Khalil Thompson was held short on 4th down and 1.
Despite a clear stoppage in the junior’s momentum, no whistle was blown on the play, and Kennedale free safety Devon Mason came flying out of the pile with an apparent fumble recovery before going untouched on a 77-yard touchdown return to make it 13-0 Wildcats.
On the Rams’ next possession the Wildcats’ defensive line began to wreak havoc in the backfield, blowing up a first down run play then causing an errant snap and a fumble on second down.
With the ball loose and lying near the goal line, Wildcat defensive end Mayfield Hays wrapped his paws around it for an easy six points and a second Kennedale defensive touchdown to make it 20-0.
“They are a very good team with a lot of athletes, and we needed to play extremely well to have a chance,” said Rams head coach Gerald Perry. “We were sluggish on our snaps and had a lot of injuries, and that hurts when you have playmakers not playing in the game.”
As Perry mentioned, a key factor in the loss was inconsistent and mishandled snaps throughout the game, due in part to the absence of injured starting center Trace Coe. In total, the Rams had five fumbles, three of which were recovered by Kennedale.
Hovering in the low 40s, the frigid temperatures were another factor in multiple injuries for the Rams, including ones to starters Carlos Gray at wide receiver and Thompson at running back.
Among the few bright spots for the offense was Thompson’s final carry of the game, which resulted in a 41-yard TD when the junior scampered up the left sideline and outran the Wildcats defense. Thompson ended the night with 16 carries for 101 yards a TD and two fumbles. The touchdown was the only score for the Rams in the first half.
For the Kennedale offense, the run game was in full effect with the terrifying trio of Kirven, Jaden Knowles and Evan Jowers, which combined for 521 yards of offense and six TDs.
All three players scored in the first half to help the Wildcats take a 34-7 lead into intermission.
Kirven got things started on the 10-yard score, before Kennedale went to Jowers for back-to-back runs of 55 yards and a 6-yard TD. Kirven ended the night with a team-high 233 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns, while Jowers had five touches for 69 yards and one touchdown. He was also 6 of 9 passing for 72 yards.
In the second, Knowles got on the board with a 9-yard TD following a Mineral Wells punt. The junior then answered Thompson’s score with his second touchdown on a 5-yard run to put the Wildcats up 41-7 before half. Knowles finished with three touchdowns and 147 yards rushing on 11 carries.
In the second half, the Rams had a reawakening that began with sophomore running back Preston Garrett. Garrett rushed the ball four times for 21 yards to open the third quarter, which allowed senior QB Seth Slack to open up the passing game. For the game, Garrett rushed the ball 13 times for 54 yards.
Then, on play number five, Slack aired the ball out to find junior wide out D'ija Kennedy in stride for a 45-yard TD to make it 41-14.
“Just a tremendous effort, very proud of him,” Perry said about the sophomore running back Garrett. “[Kennedale] is a team that’s well-coached and were a state semi-finalist last year, but we put some points on the board and there are some things we can hang our hat on.”
Following the Kennedy touchdown, the Rams maintained momentum forcing a Kennedale punt then recovering a fumble on a heads-up play by senior Sevens Seargeant. But the tide quickly turned on the Rams as their next two possessions resulted in turnovers while the Wildcats answered with a touchdown each time.
After Slack fumbled on 3rd and 2, Kirven led the next drive with carries of 34 and 39 yards, the latter of which resulted in a touchdown. Following another turnover on a Slack interception by Wildcat freshman corner JD Coffey, Kennedale senior David Roper rumbled over the goal line for a 12-yard score to bring the count to 55-14.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored their ninth touchdown on a 10-yard scamper by Knowles, and senior kicker Kevin Tiero knocked home his eighth of nine extra point attempts to make it 62-14.
Meanwhile, the Rams kept fighting with an eight-play 89-yard drive capped off by Slack’s second touchdown pass to Kennedy on an 8-yard tip-toe grab near the sideline to end the scoring at 62-21.
In the loss, Slack finished 10 for 23 passing for 240 yards, two touchdowns and one INT. The senior also rushed the ball seven times for two yards.
Meanwhile, Kennedy led the Rams in receiving with five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Elsewhere, senior Carlos Gray hauled in two catches for 88 yards before leaving the game at halftime due to injury.
“Not much we were going to do in that game,” Perry said. “We didn’t tackle well, and they outplayed us. We are banged up and have to regroup. We’ve got to win one to get in, and we want to get that taken care of next week.”
At 4-4 overall, 1-2 in district, the Rams need a win at Diamond Hill on Thursday, Nov. 2 in order to stay in contention for third place in the district standings.
“We’ve got a short week, so we’re going to get back, get this out of our mind and get ready for Diamond Hill,” Perry said. “We’ll try and get that win and one against Castleberry to try and get some momentum headed into the playoffs.”