For the first time in a season, the Killeen Kangaroos will bus to Hood Stadium for three games, including Copperas Cove tonight and Waco Midway on Oct. 18. They’ll be considered the away team Oct. 11 against Shoemaker at Fort Hood.
“It’s not home,” said Larry Stokes, whose son plays on Killeen’s junior varsity team.
Killeen hosted Belton at Fort Hood last year, after exclusively using the campus-adjacent Leo Buckley Stadium for Thursday and Friday home games for 32 years.
“It’s very uncomfortable,” said Killeen booster Nilda Chinea. “As part of the booster club, it’s easier for us to have our T-shirts here and sell them. ... What we make is to reinvest in our kids. I don’t understand why (the school district) would do something like that.”
The Killeen Independent School District board of trustees approved a roughly $4,500-per-game lease with Fort Hood partly to avoid Thursday night games, allowing players, band members, drill team members and cheerleaders to study, Killeen ISD Athletic Director Tom Rogers said.
Stokes argued that KISD varsity squads play non-district away games on occasional Thursday nights.
“That dog ain’t hunting with me,” Stokes said. “The JV plays every Thursday night.”
“A junior varsity game does not involve as many kids,” Rogers said. “You don’t have the band, the cheerleaders and the choir singing out there. It’s basically just the football teams.”
Rogers added that some Killeen ISD varsity coaches contribute to JV teams, making it impossible to hold games for both levels on one night.
Leo Buckley Stadium sports field turf, but Hood Stadium features tall natural grass, unnecessarily forcing Killeen players to adjust, said Stokes and Killeen sports photographer Kimberley Williams. Divets and ruts lie beneath the surface.
Killeen coach Sam Jones said landscapers adequately tended to the field.
“Our kids didn’t say anything about it,” said Ellison coach Trent Gregory, whose team played Manor this year at Hood Stadium. “I just thought the (grass) was a little high, but it wasn’t rutted up. I didn’t see any holes or divets or anything.”
One side of seating
In contrast with Leo Buckley, rival fans pack only one sideline of bleachers at Hood, with 300 additional tickets reserved for home fans.
“If we were playing at our own field, we could fill this whole thing up, and have people standing on the sidelines,” Stokes said. “I heard that they were going to put in another set of bleachers last year when we played at (Hood Stadium). Well, it’s been 12 months. They haven’t done anything.”
Killeen ISD has not put a timeline on its plans to install an additional 4,500 seats, Rogers said.
“Us having to take a stadium that is less than adequate isn’t an advantage and if anything, there’s a lot of animosity for us even going out there,” Williams said.
Jones denied any relationship between stadiums and successful teams.
“It’s about playing well and eliminating mistakes, and just playing the game,” he said. “When you get in the playoffs, the stadium doesn’t make a difference. The stadium’s the stadium. It’s what you bring to the stadium (that matters). ... Everything that we’ll do Friday has already been done.”
Last year, a yellow caution tape was the only barrier dividing opposing fans, Williams said.
“I got some friends that I work with that are big Bulldawg fans and they said they’re not even going, because there are going to be some issues,” Stokes said. “If there are any incidents where anybody gets hurt, I am going to hold the school board responsible for that.”
Rogers said a banner and plastic divider will split opposing fans at tonight’s game. Fort Hood officials ensure order at the stadium, and violence has never been a problem.
“With more people, it might be,” he said. “The crowd out there has pretty much centered themselves around the cheerleaders. They set up on the 20- or 25-yard line.”
Cove and Hood
Cove’s football schedule denotes Hood Stadium as “Dawg East,” which Williams said communicates Copperas Cove’s attempt to annex Hood Stadium as a second home.
Bulldawg coach Jack Welch said fans have merely used the term to refer to any area east of Cove.
“Our home is Bulldawg Stadium in Copperas Cove,” Welch said. “Our home stadium is totally different from Hood Stadium, so it’s definitely going somewhere that is not your home.”
Since the spring, the Bulldawgs have practiced twice at Hood Stadium, where Welch said players are trying to familiarize themselves with their surroundings.
Fort Hood should’ve blocked the team’s access, Stokes said, to legitimately maintain the site’s neutrality. It is unfair to the Roos.
“I really don’t know what to say to those that would say that,” Welch said. “I don’t know how many schools or which schools, but I know they’ve practiced out there, too. So, it’s open to anybody.”
“The relationship we have with Fort Hood has been really good,” Rogers said. “They have gone out of their way to accommodate anything we’ve asked them to. I think it’s a very pleasant atmosphere.”
Welch said games at Hood Stadium naturally bridge the military communities of Copperas Cove and Killeen.
“It’s here in Killeen, Texas. I’m saying it’s home,” Jones said. “It’s got to be home.”
Clay Whittington contributed to this report.