Win your home games; stay healthy; execute: coach-speak for how to be one of the four playoff teams representing District 8-5A in the playoffs.
Belton coach Rodney Southern may have been the most honest, though.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be as nervous about this district,” Southern said.
The race for one of the district’s four playoff seeds appears to be a five-horse race between defending District 12-5A champion Copperas Cove, District 8-4A co-champion Waco Midway, Belton, Killeen and Temple.
Even Harker Heights, which has suffered critical injuries to crucial players in nondistrict, and Shoemaker present enough problems to either trip up a front-runner or run around one that’s not paying attention. Only Ellison seems like a long-shot to be among the top four at the end of the season.
“You just have to take care of business every Friday night,” Temple head coach Mike Spradlin said. “I’m going to sound like a coach, but the key is to stay focussed and stay healthy and all those things. ... Everybody’s there and it’s going to be an every Friday night dog fight. I keep saying that, but it’s because I mean it.”
Midway, which lost to five-time 4A state champion Lake Travis in the Division I state final a year ago, and Copperas Cove seem like the only true favorites.
Killeen, playing as a 5A school for the first time since 2001, has enjoyed four straight playoff seasons; Belton is a perennial contender as of late and Temple has shown a resurgence of its tradition under Spradlin, who was hired just last season.
“I think that Midway is definitely out there in front because of what they did last year and what they’ve done so far this year. Besides that, I think everybody’s kind of in the same boat, as far as I think everybody’s pretty good, pretty salty,” Cove coach Jack Welch said.
And what better way to kick off the new Central Texas season than one of the most lopsided rivalries in the area — Killeen (3-0) at Copperas Cove (2-1).
For years, Cove was a homecoming game for many teams on the Bulldawgs’ schedule. But the Dawgs have exacted revenge on many of those schools, including Killeen, which holds a 17-12-1 series lead.
Cove has won its last 10 straight against the Roos, including 33-10 the last time out in 2007 when the Bulldawgs made their second straight 4A state final appearance on the arms and legs of Robert Griffin III. Killeen won 17 of the first 20 games between the two schools.
“I still think we have the same make-up,” Killeen coach Sam Jones said. “They have a great talent pool to choose from and they believe they can win. They’ve been in the playoffs for a long time now and we’re in the same boat. Our kids believe they can win. I think it’s going to be a great game.”
Shoemaker (1-2) is playing at Temple (2-1) in a game that two years ago the Wildcats won for the only win between the two schools in 2010.
Temple made the playoffs last season while the Grey Wolves, in coach Channon Hall’s first year, snapped a 31-game losing streak and had both Temple and Belton on the ropes last season.
“I think there’s been a couple of similar things going on at both places,” Spradlin said. “I see real similarities in what Channon’s doing and what we’re doing.”