As Harker Heights walked off the field at Leo Buckley Stadium, falling below .500 in league play after its second straight loss, the Knights were, in fact, no further from their playoff goal than when they stepped on the field earlier that evening.
Shortly after Temple held off the Knights 42-21 at Buckley, Killeen completed its rally against Belton to drop both teams into a tie with Heights for fifth place in 8-5A.
And Heights faces two of the teams in front of it to end the season, with first-place Waco Midway on tap for today.
That means the Knights’ playoff fate hasn’t changed — they still control it.
“We still have something to play for, so we’re still going about it like it doesn’t matter if we won or lost,” Knights coach Jerry Edwards said. “Everything we want to achieve is still in front of us.”
Standing in the way of what the Knights hope to achieve is a Midway team coming off its first loss since moving up to Class 5A, and a Cove team that has won its district games by an average of 50.7 points per game.
That said, Edwards did say that seeing Midway fall to a Shoemaker team that Heights challenged two games ago was encouraging.
Now, seemingly invincible Midway has proven just as susceptible to an upset as the rest of District 8-5A.
And Heights believes it’s as capable of pulling off the upset as anyone.
“It’s a logjam right now in 8-5A, and any night anybody can win and I think we’ve seen that all year long,” Edwards said. “I told our kids we’ve just got to put it together. Against Temple, we kind of snakebit ourselves. We got the fumble in the end zone, the onside kick went against us, and we just couldn’t get a couple of key stops. I think if we do all that stuff, it’s a lot closer ball game than what the score actually showed.”
Heights can ill afford to play that kind of game against Midway as Edwards said what jumps out the most about the Panthers on film is how polished they are in terms of technique.
The sound fundamentals speaks to the success the Panthers have had recently, reaching the Class 4A, Division I state title game in 2011 and winning a district title in 8-5A in 2012.
To defeat the Panthers, the Knights will have to play to that level, Edwards said.
“We have to do everything right,” he said. “When you play really good teams like Midway is, you can’t do anything to put yourself in a hole.”
Yet despite its upcoming challenge, and its two-game slide entering today, Heights is happy it still gets to determine its playoff fate on the field the next two weeks.
“We can play as many games as you want,” Edwards said. “We’re scheduled for 10, but if we want to play extra, then we’ve got to take care of business.”