Random musings as the competitive sports season for District 8-5A teams is in its last 48 hours.
The Harker Heights boys and girls relay teams have the chance to put a nice exclamation point on a fine athletic year for the Knights and Lady Knights.
Heights qualified for the playoffs in five of eight team sports, took home two district titles, and now have had two individuals — swimmer Matt Sluss and sprinter Darius Mitchell — and two relay teams qualify for state.
Each of the Knight competitors this weekend — that’d be the Lady Knight 4x100 relay and the Knight 4x400 relay, plus Mitchell in the 200 — enter with one of, if not the, top times in the state.
It will certainly take the Knights’ and Lady Knights’ best to convert said times to state gold.
But Heights has to like its chances to finish strong in a year where it has largely carried the banner for Killeen ISD.
The District 7-5A sweep of District 8-5A in the bi-district round of the baseball playoffs marked the second time 8-5A has failed to put a team in the second round of the playoffs this season.
On five occasions this season, only the district champion out of 8-5A has prevailed against a 7-5A foe in the opening round of the playoffs.
This all but led to a chorus of cheers this past fall when 8-5A learned it’d no longer have to face one of the best athletic districts in the state in the first round of the playoffs starting next season.
I maintain that the only teams this truly helps are the district champions and not because they’ll avoid the fourth-place 7-5A team in the bi-district round.
Two rounds later, the 8-5A champion has often met the 7-5A champion in the regional quarterfinal, and avoiding that team — often one of the five best in the state — is the true victory for 8-5A in the latest realignment.
For the rest of the district, I actually see the matchup with 7-5A as a welcome challenge.
Many teams, the Shoemaker football and boys basketball teams come to mind, accepted that challenge and nearly toppled state-ranked foes from 7-5A in Round 1.
And while they didn’t win this year, they’ll certainly be all the better for it come next season.
Not to be forgotten, spring football is in full swing, which always feels like the perfect ending to the athletic school year.
With local teams ousted from the softball and baseball playoffs, and the state meet wrapping up this weekend, everyone is officially 0-0 again.
And spring football practice, one of the first steps in preparing for Friday nights this fall, is the perfect reminder.
Heights’ young defense last season, for example, is now a veteran defense with eight returning starters.
Led by head coach Jerry Edwards, who was a defensive coordinator at Mansfield before coming to Heights, there is plenty of reason for optimism.