Kaufman built a 17-0 halftime lead and then withstood a second half charge from Sulphur Springs to grab a key 30-21 district football win on the road Friday.
The victory left the Lions poised to take the second-place district playoff spot with a victory this week over visiting Forney in the regular season finale.
That win would put the Lions at 6-2 in the district standings, potentially tied with Sulphur Springs and owning the head-to-head.
Corsicana suffered its first district loss Friday, to Ennis, but still captured the district title thanks to Kaufman’s win, with a 7-1 record. Corsicana has the bye this week.
A Kaufman loss could throw the third, fourth and fifth place spots in district into a three-way tie among three-loss teams (with Ennis and Royse City), leaving one out of the playoffs.
Forney, at 3-4, will need a loss by 4-3 Royse City and/or 4-3 Ennis to get into the playoff mix, and those two teams are playing 1-6 Terrell and 1-6 Greenville, respectively.
With that possibility, Kaufman Coach Jeramy Burleson thinks the Lions will get Forney’s best shot, and they are a well-coached team. It will be a tough game to win, he said.
Kaufman could wind up anywhere from second to fourth in district, depending upon Friday’s outcomes.
With District 7-5A in a similar situation, Burleson said any of four teams could be Kaufman’s first-round playoff opponent, making in difficult to make any plans.
Kaufman took the lead on its opening drive, capped by a 41-yard run from Trey Collier and Yael Sandoval’s extra point.
Sulphur Springs drove to the Kaufman 26 where the Lions held.
Kaufman gave it back on a fumble but the Wildcats missed a field goal.
Kaufman added a touchdown late in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Billy Pullen following a long run by Collier. Sandoval made it 14-0.
Collier intercepted a Wildcat pass to set up a 20-yard field goal with seconds left in the half for a 17-0 lead.
It was good to get the early lead, Burleson said. With Sulphur Springs’ running quarterback limited by an injury, Kaufman could control the game. But four turnovers and a big play made it close.
Sulphur Springs scored to open the third quarter to make it 17-7.
A 40-yard fumble recovery and score made it 17-14.
Kaufman responded with a scoring drive, capped by a three yarder from Pullen, to go up 23-14.
After an exchange of punts, the Wildcats hit on a 92-yard pass to make it 23-21.
Kaufman was driving when it lost another fumble, but the Lions defense forced a punt, and Ladamian Bailey’s 27-yard scoring run put it out of reach late in the fourth quarter, with Sandoval’s extra point making it 30-21.
Sulphur Springs tried to make it closer but fumbled after reaching the Lion 3-yard line.
Leading the defense were Colton Roeder with five tackles and a sack and pass breakup, Jalen Fields with five tackles and a sack, Pedro Cortez with 4.5 tackles, John Maldonado with four tackles and a fumble recovery, Chris Davidson with four tackles and a sack, Michael Glick with 3.5 tackles, Montana Booker and Billy Pullen with three tackles each and Angel Juarez with 2.5 tackles.
Kaufman relied on its running game, with Collier throwing only three times, completing two for 30 yards. He ran it 22 times for 150 yards and Bailey added 19 carries for 83 yards. Charleston Miller ran seven times, gaining 36 yards, plus an 8-yard reception.
Burleson said Kaufman’s plan was to run the ball and take time off the lock, with the passing game there if it was needed.