Jerry Edwards is a grown man, but he feels like a kid again.

After months of anticipation and weeks of preparation, Harker Heights embarks on its journey toward a second consecutive playoff appearance tonight, opening the season at Elgin.

While a lot of hard work awaits the Knights before potentially reaching their ultimate destination, for now, Harker Heights’ head coach is simply enjoying the moment.

“I’m geared up and ready,” Edwards said. “This is what I love to do.

“There is always just that anticipation for a new year and a new season, and I can’t wait to go out there and compete.”

The Knights will attempt to repeat the success of last year, when they ended a postseason drought stretching back to 2012, but Harker Heights lost several key pieces, including starting quarterback Robert Gray, standout running back Madu Eneli and nine defensive starters.

While Edwards believes the host of newcomers will quickly adapt to varsity-level play, he knows there will be an adjustment period.

“This will be the first time for these younger guys to play on a Friday night,” Edwards said. “So, we have to overcome the emotional aspect and the opening-game jitters, and if we can get past that stuff, I think we’ll be ready, because I know our veterans are ready to go.”

Regardless of experience, the Knights will be tested by the Wildcats, who have an extra week of preseason practice under their belts due to forgoing spring practices. The additional time could prove extremely beneficial as Elgin ushered in a new head coach during the offseason.

Jens Anderson takes over the Wildcats’ program following consecutive losing seasons, including a 3-7 showing last year.

Although Elgin is in the midst of transition, and the Knights defeated the Wildcats by 21 points, 35-14, in last season’s opening game, Edwards refuses to take the contest lightly.

“They’ve had an extra week together and an extra scrimmage,” he said, “so, they are probably going to be a little more polished and ready to go.

“On film, they are hard-nosed with no quit.”

After producing an overall record of 6-5 last year, Harker Heights will be led by senior team captains Jaquan Tillis and Jameel Hodges, who are both running backs, and defensive tackle Taunty Motu Tuitasi in 2017. All three were placed on the 8-6A All-District Second Team as juniors.

While many of the trio’s teammates will be new this year, the Knights’ philosophy remains the same.

“We just have to do what we typically do,” Edwards said. “We want to run the football, establish our running game and play good defense.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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