What happened last week to the Killeen Kangaroos needed to happen.
“That was an embarrassing loss,” said Killeen senior safety Deric Robertson. “That’s not Killeen football that we played last week. We knew we were a better defense than what we showed. We just had to show, tonight, that we could play defense.”
After giving up more than 500 yards of offense in its 64-28 loss to Copperas Cove a week ago, Killeen allowed the Knights only 226 in a 28-7 rout of Harker Heights on Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Junior running back Daniel McCants and the Roos’ rushing attack lit up Heights’ vaunted defense for 352 yards and four scores as Killeen won its first District 8-5A game of the season and avenged last year’s 38-27 loss to the Knights.
“It just boosted us up,” McCants said of the lopsided loss last week. “It gives us strength to go harder. We needed to lose one time to get the win, to know what we’ve got to do.”
McCants ran for 192 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, Naaman Young broke out with a 94-yard night and Garrett Gaskamp ran for 60 yards and two scores as Killeen (4-1, 1-1 8-5A) beat the Knights for the sixth time in the last seven years.
The Knights (1-4, 1-1), who held Belton to less than 200 yards in a 7-0 win last week, were their own worse enemy at times against Killeen. Heights had three personal fouls for late hits and four
turnovers, including an early muffed punt that set up Killeen’s first score.
“As a defense, I try to keep my guys clear-headed and playing hard every down, but momentum is a big thing and they had that in the beginning of the game,” said Harker Heights senior linebacker Naashon Hughes. “Momentum got the best of us.”
After the Knights’ defense held Killeen to a three-and-out on its first series of the game, Tyler Wade fumbled the Roos’ punt inside his own 14-yard line and Killeen’s Marcus Dewberry recovered to set up DeVarri McCray’s 3-yard touchdown with 6:23 left in the first.
While still plenty early, the first-quarter score forced the Knights’ struggling offense to play catch-up and it never did.
“It was a big momentum swing for them — they didn’t have to go very far — and then we had to fight from behind and kind of took away what we did last week because we were down in the hole a little bit early,” said Harker Heights coach Mike Mullins.
The Knights responded well, driving 51 yards to the Killeen 29, but quarterback Troy Smith was dropped for a 4-yard loss on a fourth-and-2 play by Phillip Pati and Dyeon Foster and Gaskamp put the Roos’ up 14-0 with a 5-yard run nine plays and 66 yards later.
McCants, after running for just 63 yards last week, gave Killeen a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“I was hitting the hole faster than I did (last week),” McCants said. “Hitting the hole faster and stronger, don’t make no unnecessary moves, just go straight. If you get hit, you get hit, just fall forward.”
Terance Goodwin answered for the Knights with an 18-yard scoring run that was set up by a 30-yard scramble by Smith, who led the Knights with 104 yards on 12 carries rushing and completed 6 of 15 passes for 44 yards and one interception.
Gaskamp, who scored on a 2-yard run late in the third quarter, completed just 3-of-9 attempts for 25 yards and also had one interception.
“We knew all week we had to get physical on defense, so we practiced running the football a little more,” said Killeen coach Sam Jones. “We had to get ready for how physical they were and it looked like we kind of turned the tide on them.
“I’m so proud that they rebounded from last week. They didn’t let the game last week beat them up for this week.”