HARKER HEIGHTS — Mike Mullins knew his Harker Heights offense had several question marks heading into the season, most notably at quarterback.
But if there was one thing he felt sure about, it was junior tailback Marcus Anderson II, the returning District 12-5A newcomer of the year.
So much for sure things.
When the Knights take the field for their season-opener against perennial state power Round Rock Stony Point at 7:30 tonight at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, it will be without it’s lone returning offensive skill player. Anderson is expected to miss the first several weeks of the season after suffering a severe left leg injury late last week.
“It was a huge disappointment, not only to him, but to us also,” Mullins said Tuesday. “But at the same time, we’ve got to put other guys in there that we feel very confident about in Terance Goodwin and Tyler Brown.”
The loss of Anderson, even for a few weeks, is devastating from an experience standpoint as Heights was breaking in two new quarterbacks and a bevy of new receivers, not to mention half its offensive line.
Expected to be the workhorse early in the season, Anderson was poised to have a breakout year after emerging late lastyear to finish with 436 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
“It’s going to hurt us from that (experience) standpoint, … but everybody’s picked their game up, and they have great confidence in the other guys,” Mullins said.
Without Anderson to carry the load, the job of running the ball turns to 5-foot-8, 150-pound Goodwin and 5-11, 200-pound bruiser Tyler Brown, the younger brother of former Knights athlete Daevon Brown.
It could also expedite the maturation process of Heights’ two quarterbacks — junior Damion May and sophomore Troy Smith — who have both shown their capable, but neither has emerged as “the guy” during preseason camp.
“I think it’s also stepped up our quarterback play from both those guys, and our receivers across the board where we’re pretty much two deep,” Mullins said. “So we feel good about those guys, but at the same time, when the lights come on (today), it’s going to be an eye-opening experience for them.”
Although breaking in so many inexperienced faces brings its own challenge, the biggest test Heights faces tonight will be from the opposite side of the field.
Despite taking a step back last year and failing to make the playoffs, Stony Point is widely considered one of the state’s premier 5A programs after three consecutive state semifinal appearances from 2008-10.
“We needed to see those kind of people with speed, with some tradition and have been to the playoffs, and our kids need to see what that’s about,” Mullins said.
Mullins believes both Heights and Stony Point compare favorably as both feature experienced defenses that are expected to carry the load while the inexperienced offenses work out early-season kinks.
While the Knights feature two or three future Division I players on defense, including University of Texas commits in center/defensive end Darius James (6-5, 320) and linebacker Naashon Hughes, the Tigers also have their own talent on that side of the ball with two-time all-state middle linebacker Marcos Curry and all-district defensive back Wes Moore.
Also making things difficult is Mullins’ own familiar relationship with Stony Point offensive coordinator Mark Mullins — his younger brother.
“For us as coaches, it’s not as bad. It’s more of a strain on the outer family, my wife … and my parents, and sister-in-law and cousins,” Mullins laughs. “Of course everybody wants to win, but at the same time, we hope Thanksgiving and Christmas is where we can all get along.”