The first win is out of the way, but the attitude hasn’t changed at Harker Heights.
Just a week ago, finishing was the theme for the Knights (1-4, 1-1 in District 8-5A) who, at the time, were coming off a deflating loss to Belton in which they saw a 17-point second-half lead evaporate.
This week, Heights is coming off a win against a Killeen team that was riding high after its first victory against Copperas Cove since 1995.
But like a week ago, Heights believes its work is far from done.
“It was good to beat Killeen and to get in the win column and to have a dog in the hunt still,” Heights coach Jerry Edwards said. “But in order to stay there, we’ve got to stay focused and get ready for the next opponent.”
That next opponent is Ellison (0-5, 0-2), a team that Edwards sees a lot of his Knights in at first glance.
“I think they’re getting better each and every week,” Edwards said. “I’ve talked to my kids about that. They’re building just like we were building, and you can see the improvement each week.”
Because of the parallels between the Eagles this week and Heights last week, the Knights aren’t taking Ellison lightly, even with the Eagles coming off their 25th consecutive loss against Belton.
Ellison had a second-half lead against the Tigers, as did Heights, before ultimately falling to 0-2 in league play.
“Everyone’s aware of the position Ellison is in,” junior linebacker Ryan Turck said. “And we’re getting prepared right now for Ellison because we know they want to win and they’re a good team.”
Heights, meanwhile, appears to have learned from its early-season mistakes as both Edwards and Turck spoke to a renewed spirit coming out of halftime and late in the game.
“Everyone in the locker room was pretty much saying, ‘finish the game,’” Turck said, “and throughout the game, everyone was saying, ‘finish — finish every play, finish the whole game.”
“The kids coming off the field were very positive,” Edwards said. “They were encouraging each other, saying, ‘hey, we’ll get it back’ when bad things happened and when good things happened they were building each other up.
“So, it was just a real positive atmosphere on the sideline.”
Edwards also said he was proud of the defense, which had allowed an average of 42.5 points per game to start the season, stepping up to stop Killeen running back Daniel McCants, who had rushed for 276 yards and six touchdowns in the win against Copperas Cove.
The dynamic back rushed for just 60 yards on 15 carries against a Heights defense still growing under Edwards.
“I think they’re finally starting to come together and understand the system, and they’re comfortable in it,” Edwards said. “I think that’s the biggest difference is they’re comfortable in the system.
“They’re making the checks now and the bumps and everything that we ask them to do, and they know their fits a lot better.”
Edwards and Turck said the improved play must continue if the Knights hope to achieve a winning record in district by knocking off Ellison.
And while the Knights’ attitude has remained the same leading up to the showdown with the winless Ellison, they did admit that it feels nicer to be in the win column this week, a position they weren’t in a week ago.
“The kids have seen the progress that we’ve been making each and every week,” Edwards said.
“Just to finally see it come to fruition and to get over that hump and to break through and get that first victory was big and kind of a relief on me and the kids.”