Four straight playoff appearances and the Killeen Kangaroos are still counting.
Following its deepest postseason run since 2008, Killeen returns a reloaded offense, a defense the coaches are confident with and the swagger that made the Roos a player in Class 4A.
But, the Roos are no longer in 4A.
In February, the UIL shuffled Killeen back up to 5A for the first time since 2001.
“They’re excited about it, especially (playing) the teams that made the playoffs and even the local teams that we’ve been playing,” Killeen coach Sam Jones said of the jump. “We’re going to take the challenge, play each one of them one at a time. They have to play Killeen, also. It’s going to be some great games in Central Texas this year.”
With two of four running backs returning, an up-and-coming junior quarterback with a year under his belt and a trio of go-to receivers, Killeen moves up to 5A with plenty of firepower following a regional semifinal playoff run in 4A last season.
Killeen averaged almost 283 rushing yards a game but returns just two members from a senior-laden offensive line — Chris Tolle and Elika Sailiata.
Around those two, the Roos rebuilt line will block for its two most talented running backs from a year ago — senior Naaman Young (96-786, 9 TDs) and junior Daniel McCants (28-321, 2 TDs in the playoffs) — and junior quarterback Garrett Gaskamp, the District 8-4A offensive Newcomer of the Year.
Gaskamp threw for more than 1,800 yards with 13 touchdowns to just eight interceptions in his debut season and returns with his top two leading receivers — seniors DeVarri McCray (24-341, 3 TDs) and Akeem Harrison (17-269, TD) — and junior standout Devyn Williams (7-185, 2 TDs).
Led by Oklahoma State-committed safety Deric Robertson, the Roos’ defense tries to recreate the magic of last year’s unit which allowed just 249 yards per game.
Despite graduating a stable of defensive stalwarts — namely defensive ends Artrez Price (Stephen F. Austin) and Derriel Collins (Cisco Junior College) — the Roos defense returns all-district defensive tackle Larry Kidd, linebacker Trent Hines and a pair of reserve defensive ends in Arthur McIntosh and Jeffrey Banks who stepped into starring roles during spring.
“Hopefully, they’ll lead with that kind of experience,” Jones said, “and hopefully we can develop some kind of continuity on defense like we did last year.”