The previously-winless Kemp Yellowjackets soured the Commerce Tigers’ Homecoming night as the Tigers were defeated 29-24 in 3A non-district action Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Yellowjackets came into the game without having scored a single point in their first three games.
In the early going, both teams struggled to find success on offense. The Tigers got their first big break when Kemp quarterback Elijah Dubois tossed up an errant pass that fell right into the hands of Commerce’s Kyle Amos for an interception. Just a few plays later, J’Den Wilson found running back Dayton Dunbar on a screen pass, and Dunbar scampered 15 yards for the game’s first touchdown and an early 7-0 lead, which they took into the second quarter.
It looked as if the Tigers would have all of the momentum as Dubois fumbled the ball at midfield and it was recovered by Commerce, but on the ensuing drive Xzay Basham coughed the ball up inside the red zone, with the Yellowjackets recovering.
This seemed to give the Kemp team a spark, as they drove down the field, eventually scoring on a 10-yard run by Johnatan Mendez, ending the Yellowjackets’ dubious 13-quarter shutout streak. A missed extra point meant that the Tigers still clung to a one-point lead.
Kemp caught Commerce by surprise with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and recovered. This led to a 34-yard field goal by Mendez to give the Yellowjackets their first lead of the season.
The Tigers drove down the field to answer, stalling just before the half ended and settling for a 34-yard kick by Edgar Castillo. Commerce went to the locker room with a slim 10-9 margin.
Both teams again struggled to gain a foothold in the third quarter. Commerce was gifted a golden opportunity when Dubois, who was also on punting duty, shanked a kick and ended up with a one-yard punt, giving the Tigers the ball at their opponent’s 17 yard line. Just a few plays later, Basham redeemed his earlier miscue with a nine-yard scoring run to extend the Tiger lead.
But from that moment on, the entire makeup of the game changed. It became the Elijah Dubois show.
The Yellowjacket quarterback ran the first play following the Commerce touchdown 78 yards to the house for a score. After an unsuccessful two point attempt, the Tigers still led by two points. On the following kickoff, Mendez pulled off another surprise onside kick, this time recovering it himself. This was followed by another long run by Dubois and then a nine-yard touchdown carry by the Kemp signal caller.
In just over a minute of game time, the Tigers went from an eight-point advantage to being down by six. The game had been turned on its head.
Commerce attempted to close the gap late in the third quarter with a 48-yard field goal attempt by Castillo, but the kick didn’t have the distance. The Tigers were down 17-23 with 12 minutes to play.
A comeback attempt early in the quarter was stymied by another lost fumble by Basham, and the situation became more desperate as time ticked down. But Commerce was not done fighting for the win, and pulled off a long drive that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown strike from J’Den Wilson to Brad Caldwell, who made a highlight-reel one-handed grab to score. Following the extra point, Commerce was again ahead by one point for the third time in the game.
But as they had earlier in the second half, the Yellowjackets wasted no time answering, this time on an 84-yard run by Dubois for another touchdown on the second play of the drive.
The Tigers had one last gasp to score. After a crucial third and long was converted by a 37-yard bullet from Wilson to Caldwell, Commerce faced a fourth and long situation at about midfield. Wilson once again found Caldwell for first-down yardage, but Caldwell was called for a rare offensive pass interference penalty, negating the catch.
The Tigers could not convert, and Kemp ran out the rest of the clock to leave Commerce with a 29-24 victory.
Dubois was the only Kemp player to really get anything going on offense, but finished with a gaudy stat line of 255 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, including more than 200 rushing yards in the second half alone. He also completed five of his 13 throws for 89 yards and an interception. Mendez scored a touchdown on the ground while finishing with 29 yards on eight runs. Mendez also recovered his own onside kick on the night, as the Yellowjackets were successful on two of their four onside kick attempts.
Commerce quarterback Wilson tried to match the output of his peer on the other sideline, but did not find the same success. Wilson ran for 70 yards on nine carries while completing eight of 16 passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Basham was the team’s leading rusher with 71 yards and a touchdown on 14 rushes, but he also lost two fumbles. Caldwell caught four passes for 73 yards and a score.
Commerce Head Coach Cody Farrell didn’t have too many words to describe the loss following Friday’s game.
“The kids thought that since Kemp hadn’t won yet that this would be an easy win, and they played like it,” Farrell said. “Just not enough tackling, too many turnovers, too many penalties, too many mistakes.”
The loss drops the Tigers to 1-3 while the Yellowjackets improve to 1-3. Commerce will begin district play against Pottsboro on the road next week while Kemp has a final non-district matchup, traveling to face Dallas Christian.