By Alex Byington
By the Book
"There is nothing so deceptive as the distance of a light upon a pitch-dark night, and sometimes the glimmer seemed to be far away upon the horizon and sometimes it might have been within a few yards of us." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
No one likes to be alone in the dark.
There's a reason why so many scary movies use it to set the tension before the monster emerges from the shadows with machete in tow. It's a frightening and simply unnerving situation.
The darkness is desolate, surrounding you with nothing but sheer blackness. Your pupils dilate, straining to draw in any and all semblance of illumination available to them.
Then there it is - a light flickering in the distance.
You sprint ahead, but the light doesn't appear to be getting bigger. In fact, it seems to be shrinking. Faster and faster you go, until your legs simply tire out.
But still, the light isn't any closer. So you keep walking, slowly advancing toward the slight glimmer of hope that the light represents - an end to the darkness.
It is that road out of the dredges of mediocrity that a couple of area football teams find themselves walking down as the season wanes to a close. For Harker Heights and Salado, the end of their long journey of progress appears oh so near, yet just out of reach.
The Knights (5-3, 3-2 12-5A) haven't seen the light of the playoffs since Hall of Fame coach Ross Rogers called it a career following the 2006 season. Since then, the Heights faithful have endeared two one-win seasons before steadily trying to drag themselves out of the muck and back into contention. And in head coach Mike Mullins' third year at the helm, the Knights are once again close to living up to their lofty surname and reaching the playoffs.
It's just going to take the previously unthinkable - wins against perennial District 12-5A powers A&M Consolidated and Copperas Cove.
Despite their brief history together, the Knights and Tigers are connected like not-so-close cousins, with Rogers as the grandfather.
But while their game tonight in College Station will have a feel of a family reunion - Consolidated will be honoring the 1991 4A state championship team that was led by Rogers and included Mullins as an assistant - it should be a get-together that Heights is planning to disrupt if there is any hope for a postseason appearance.
The light at the end of Salado's tunnel is far closer, as the Eagles (4-4, 1-2 25-3A) have already gotten over one hurdle with their first district win two weeks ago and the road only gets easier from here. Taylor and Llano - Salado's final two opponents - have combined for just three wins.
So, after suffering through a disastrous one-win inaugural season in 3A last year, the Eagles' days of dwelling in darkness should be rapidly ending - as long as that monster doesn't jump out at the last minute.