FORT HOOD — Chalk Harker Heights’ entire season up to a slow start.
Like senior tailback Terance Goodwin, it just takes a little while for the Knights to get rolling.
After struggling to break free early, a 40-yard touchdown by Goodwin on his sixth touch sparked the Knights’ big-play potential Friday for a 28-12 victory over Shoemaker in the inaugural game at Hood Stadium.
“The first couple of plays it was like anxiety, getting the butterflies out of me, but as we kept going, they started breaking down ... and we started moving the ball,” Goodwin said.
The win kept Heights (3-4, 3-1 8-5A) in the thick of the District 8-5A playoff race with three weeks left and its toughest stretch of games to come.
“We had a rough start, but we just had to pull everything together and come together as a team,” said sophomore quarterback Troy Smith, who rushed for a team-high 111 yards including an 80-yard touchdown on the Knights’ second offensive play of the second half.
“We just had to make it happen and we did tonight.”
Smith’s season-long run put Heights up 14-0 with 3½ minutes into the third quarter and gave his team enough cushion to stick to the game plan — running the ball.
“We finally got the big plays today, and usually it’s not there, but today everything just worked out perfectly like we needed,” Smith said.
While the Knights’ defense was able to keep Grey Wolves star Johnny Jefferson to short gains all night, the Heights offense took advantage of its big plays, finding the end zone on all four of its 20-plus yard plays.
With Texas-committed linebacker Naashon Hughes shadowing him all night, the Baylor-bound Jefferson finished with 125 total yards of offense, including 93 rushing. But he could never break loose for the big play, with only six of his 27 rushes going for more than 5 yards, including his 6-yard touchdown with 8:36 remaining in the game.
“We’re used to him taking one of those for 70 and 80 … and he had a good game when you go look at it, but everybody just expects every play to be a big play,” Shoemaker coach Channon Hall said.
Jefferson’s 6-yard score cut the Grey Wolves’ deficit to 21-12 with plenty of time left — until Malik Calip got his hands on the ball.
During the ensuing kickoff, Calip fielded the squib kick at midfield on the Heights’ 35 yard line, made a move left before backtracking to his right and found a crease behind some blockers for a 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“That’s like déjà vu — we’ve seen that happen before,” Hall said. “We don’t know why it happens but it happened again. We had guys there, we just missed some tackles.”
It was a first half of futility that included a combined four turnovers-on-downs, three punts, two interceptions and a missed 33-yard field goal try by the Knights’ Austin Roden.
But following a third consecutive turnover-on-downs by the Grey Wolves, the Knights’ offense broke through when Goodwin made a sharp cut left and sprinted down the home sideline for a 40-yard score with 2:32 left before halftime.
“It was huge because I thought he was stopped, and then he turned on the jets and he was gone,” Mullins said.
After struggling to hit paydirt, Shoemaker finally found it on special teams as linebacker Ed Sayers broke free on a punt by Keith Herbert, knocking it backward before jumping on it in the end zone with 1:05 left in the third quarter.
“Sayers is an energy player for us, he brings a lot of energy and emotion to us, and he’s a little hobbled right now but he was lucky enough to get in there and made something happen,” Hall said.
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566