They do not understand, not yet. In time, they will. In time, it will mean as much to the players as it does to the Killeen and Temple communities because, eventually, something of great importance will be riding on the outcome of the timeless rivalry between the Kangaroos and Wildcats.
That is the way it will be because that is the way it always was.
“The proud Roos and (the Wildcats’) old blue-front, white-back whatever they call it. When I went to school, that was the game,” said Brett Williams, Killeen Parks and Recreation Director and 1992 graduate of Killeen High School. “Ellison, yes, was big, but I don’t know if people realize it was Killeen versus Temple before it was Killeen versus Ellison.”
Ellison, too, will matter. As will Harker Heights and Shoemaker. And Belton. And Copperas Cove. And Waco Midway (again).
When Killeen jumped from 4A to 5A with the UIL biennial realignment in February, the grandfather school of Killeen ISD brought with it the Leo Buckley brand of Central Texas football.
“It broke my heart when we stopped playing them for several years. I think it was sort of an injustice to our fans — the fans in Temple and the fans in Killeen — because that’s always been such a great game,” said longtime Temple coach Bob McQueen, one of the winningest coaches in Texas high school football history. “Goodness, I just am so happy to see that rivalry renewed. It’ll be a great game every year, I assure you that.”
For the first time in 11 years, Killeen and Temple will meet Nov. 8 at Leo Buckley Stadium in Week 10 — fitting since so many of the games in the 47-year history of the series were played the final week of the season.
It’ll be a Thursday night climax of a season full of rivalry games.
“I would expect for the first year or two, the adults may be more into the rivalries than the kids Then, I think, eventually, it’ll evolve into the kids start understanding that magnitude of all these rivalries. This is really like a new era,” Williams said. “It’s going to be great for the kids, great for the community, too. I think it’s just what football is all about.”
Mark your calenders
The Roos, who have made four straight playoff appearances in 4A, open their first 5A district season since 2001 with Copperas Cove, a team that’s owned Killeen ISD football for more than a decade.
The two last shared a district in 2006 and 2007 when Robert Griffin III led the Dawgs to back-to-back 4A state title games. Cove has won 10 straight against Killeen, dating back to a 37-14 Killeen win in 1995. Prior to that, the Roos had won 16 of 19 meetings.
“It’s finally getting back to that hard-nosed, Central Texas football. We always play them in 7-on-7 and we’ll beat them in 7-on-7 and then they always say, ‘If we were in pads, it would be different.’ So, now that we’re in pads, we get to show them like how it is,” said Killeen senior safety Deric Robertson.
After Cove, Killeen plays Harker Heights, a spin-off rivalry that started with three straight overtime games from 2002-04.
Killeen and Belton haven’t played since 1997, but have a 30-game history that dates back to 1938.
The two teams played almost every year from 1938 to 1969 before a 30-year hiatus ended in 1996 and 1997.
“There was a period of time there where we didn’t play Belton very much, but it’s the closest (outside of city rivals),” Rogers said. “And, of course, so many people in Belton work out at Fort Hood, I think that rivalry’s going to grow to maybe even be bigger than the Temple one.”
Then, after six years of playing season-openers, Killeen and Ellison meet in a district game for the first time since the Eagles eliminated the Roos from the playoff race in the 2005 season finale.
The Roos hold an 18-15-1 series advantage over the Eagles in the series and have won the last two going into their Nov. 2, Week 9 game at Leo Buckley Stadium. As timeless as that rivalry has been since Ellison opened in 1978, it still does not compare to the Temple rivalry.
Even on the Wildcats’ side, their rivalry with Belton isn’t as long-standing, just 42 games compared to the 47-game history between Killeen and Temple.
“In my day, even after that when I was coaching the other big game (Belton), we had other big rivalry games it seemed like every week — it was Bryan, it was Waco, it was Killeen,” McQueen said.
Though the teams haven’t met since a 21-7 Killeen win in 2001, the players need only look closer at the history behind their most recent football state championships to see the deep-rooted fire.
Temple beat Killeen 40-21 in 1991, one of just two losses suffered by the Roos in their Division II-5A state championship season.
The following year, Killeen’s 14-7 win over Temple was the Wildcats’ lone loss in their 15-1 Division II-5A state title run in 1992. In 1993, the two met twice. Temple won both: a 26-14 win in the regular season and a 42-0 win in the playoffs.
“It’s one of those games, or it’s been one of those games — I don’t know if it’ll mean the same to the kids or not. It may not starting off, but before it’s over with, it will,” McQueen said.
“I think it’ll continue to be a big rivalry,” current Temple head coach Mike Spradlin said. “I think it’ll rekindle itself. And finishing with it in Week 10, who knows what could be on the line. Let me put it this way, I sure hope it means something.”