Despite its 2-2 district record -- just one game out of second place in District 8-5A — Harker Heights coach Jerry Edwards knows his team will be underdogs for the remainder of the district season.
That’s what happens when your schedule includes one of the hottest teams in 8-5A in second-place Temple and the two teams considered the best prior to the season in Waco Midway and Copperas Cove.
But Edwards chooses to focus on the opportunity in front of his team rather than the opponent as he believes the Knights have the ability to finish strong.
“Our team is more than capable of (handling it),” Edwards said. “We still control our own destiny. We’re at 2-2. If we win out we’re in the playoffs.
“So, I talked to the kids. I said, ‘We’re still a playoff contender until we’ve been eliminated.’ We signed up for 10 games, we’re going to play 10 games, and then we’re going to see how it turns out from there.”
Heights was tied for second in 8-5A heading into last week before Shoemaker overwhelmed the Knights with big plays at Leo Buckley Stadium on a rain-soaked field.
Heights pulled within 10 points on a field goal to open the second half but wasn’t able to pull any closer.
The Knights had a chance late in the fourth to pull within a score again but turned the ball over on downs in the red zone.
At the end of the day, Edwards said the 17-0 lead Shoemaker took in the second quarter was simply a hole his team wasn’t able to dig out of.
“Consistency is a big part of football, and I think the other night we weren’t very consistent on the offensive line or defensive line,” Edwards said. “So we’ve talked about being consistent and coming out and playing a consistent game from the first (quarter) to the fourth.”
Shoemaker did what Temple has done once before this season with quarterback Ziere Banner and two of his running backs (Rayshun Spearman and Derrick Thomas) topping 100 yards on the ground against Heights.
Temple boasts a similarly dynamic trio in quarterback Chase Truelove and running backs Marques Hatcher and Stephen Carr, all of whom hit the century mark on the ground in a win against Belton.
But the Wildcats’ success starts with the lines on both sides of the ball, Edwards said, and he added both will be a focal point for the Knights.
“They throw it when they need to, but they’re going to keep it on the ground and grind it, and hit the big play on you if you’re not careful,” Edwards said. “We’ve played a couple rushing attack teams throughout the year, and sometimes we’ve played really, really well and then the other times, like (against Shoemaker), we’ve had a lot of mental mistakes, missed tackles and stuff, and so we’ve tried to clean that up a little bit this week.”
Heights will look to keep the Temple offense off the field with its rushing attack, which Edwards said ought to have back senior running back Marcus Anderson II after he missed the Shoemaker game with an ankle injury.
Junior quarterback Troy Smith had 292 yards of total offense in his absence and may be leaned on again if Anderson is less than 100 percent.
“We just talk to the team all the time about when somebody’s not there somebody’s got to step up and pick up the slack,” Edwards said, “and I think Troy kind of took it on his shoulders and kind of carried the team there for a little while.”
But no matter who takes the field at Leo Buckley Stadium, Edwards was confident that his team will show up ready to play not just on Friday but for the rest of the season.
“We’re going to get after it and we’re going to put 11 on the field, they’re going to put 11 on the field, we’ll see how it goes,” Edwards said.
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562