Killeen was riding high after its district-opening win over Copperas Cove, its first victory over the Bulldawgs in 18 seasons.
Harker Heights was desperate for a win after giving up multiple first-half leads to most of this year’s opponents.
The Knights (1-4, 1-1 District 8-5A) found their elusive first victory Friday, beating the Roos 34-28 in Heights’ homecoming game at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“I heard (my players) coming off the field and saying, ‘We’re going to finish, we’re going to finish. It’s not going to be like before,’” said Heights coach Jerry Edwards.
Marcus Anderson II picked up 45 of his 125 rushing yards immediately after Jamarus Banks recovered a punt muffed by Daniel McCants in the final seconds of the third quarter.
The Knights were on Killeen’s 5-yard line, three plays before Troy Smith bootlegged right for a 1-yard score.
Heights added to its momentum and went up 31-14.
Garrett Gaskamp completed 16 of 34 passes for 304 yards to nine different receivers and led Killeen (1-4, 1-1 District 8-5A) with 75 yards in 1 minute, 15 seconds, pouching passes to Dijiron Lilly and Keondre Parker.
“The whole key is, when you get a chance to score, you have to score,” Killeen coach Sam Jones said. “It’s just part of the game….That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year long, are the turnovers, the mistakes and the penalties. Until you clean that up, you’re going to lose. Especially in this game.”
After McCants’ ensuing 1-yard touchdown plunge with 22 seconds remaining, Killeen recovered the onside kick. But Heights junior Chris Henderson’s interception sealed the game,
A stiff Heights front held McCants to 60 yards on 15 carries.
“We told (our team that McCants) is the key to their offense,” Edwards said. “We decided to take away the creases, because if he doesn’t have a crease, we thought we’d have a better chance of stopping him. So we just wanted to build a wall.”
The Knights led all game, and started quickly. After a Killeen swing pass lost three yards on a first-quarter fourth down try at Heights’ 19, Anderson II capped an eight-play drive of 3:14, going untouched on a 13-yard right toss touchdown.
Killeen then went three-and-out as the Roos threw incomplete on third down and three at their own 46.
Heights carried its momentum into the second quarter as Austin Golen kicked a 47-yard field goal from the right hash that cleared the crossbar by several feet.
Two plays later, Gaskamp launched a bullet to a wide open McCants down the middle of the field for a touchdown, but that score was nullified by a holding penalty.
Heights lost a yard, then threw incomplete, forcing a punt on fourth and 21.
Heights only needed 1:22 to march 54 yards down the field behind runs of Anderson, Thai Goodwin and Troy Smith.
On first and goal from the 10-yard line, Smith kept an option fake, and ran right clear for the score.
Killeen got on the board with 4:36 remaining in the first half, as Cepedro Thomas ran four yards up the gut to cap an eight-play 3:31 scoring drive.
Heights’ next drive stalled at the Killeen 40, but the Roos could not punch it in with 30 seconds left in the half.
Gaskamp capped the opening 10-play drive of the second half with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown.
Three series later, Killeen found good fortune on a 74-yard touchdown pass down the middle. Gaskamp’s pass slipped through Orlando Lilly’s hands and beamed through defensive traffic before landing in tight end Tyrese Taylor’s hands.
Smith continued his dominance down the stretch, punching in the bootleg TD, as well as a 35-yard boot right for a touchdown.
Heights ate the clock on its last drive, going 44 yards in seven minutes, as Anderson carried eight times, before Austin Roden hit a 25-yard field goal.
“The kids did great on the gameplan,” Edwards said. “I told (Marcus Anderson), ‘We need you in the fourth quarter, and he was just grinding away.’”
Contact Brian Bradley at email@example.com or (254) 501-7567