The Killeen Kangaroos’ 2013 debut started with consecutive offsides penalties on the opening kickoff and did not get much better.
Killeen committed seven penalties in the first half, turned the ball over three times in the red zone and dropped its season-opener 30-16 to New Braunfels Canyon at Leo Buckley Stadium on Friday.
“I thought we’d be a lot sharper than what we were, but it’s early, we’ve got a lot of young kids playing varsity-level football for the first time, but they’re going to come around,” said Killeen coach Sam Jones. “We saw some good things at times and some times, the bad just killed us.”
Canyon running back Gibreel Evans ran for 137 yards and two scores to help the Cougars (1-0) stretch a 7-3 halftime lead to 23-3 to start the fourth quarter.
In three consecutive carries, Evans scored on runs of 5 and 27 yards in the third quarter, and broke free on a 70-yard run that set up a Matt Wilson’s 23-yard field goal in the fourth.
Canyon totalled 432 yards of offense, including 341 on the ground and 276 in the second half.
Killeen (0-1) turned the ball over four times, but a dropped lateral inside the 5-yard line in the first quarter, an interception thrown into the end zone in the second quarter and a fumbled pitch in the third hurt the Roos more than Evans.
“It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Everything just broke apart in the beginning,” said Killeen quarterback Garrett Gaskamp. “We executed, it’s just fumbles, dropped balls, the interception that I threw at the goal line, that was a big one, that one killed us because that would’ve been nice to score, go into halftime and come back and the get the ball.”
Cepedro Thomas scored on a 16-yard carry in the fourth for Killeen carry to cut the Cougars’ lead to 23-10 and Gaskamp threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Dungca in the final three minutes.
Gaskamp completed 15 of 28 passes for 192 yards with one interception for Killeen. Daniel McCants, an 1,800-yard rusher last season, was contained to just 49 yards on 13 carries.
Dungca finished with four catches for 102 yards also for Killeen.
Canyon quarterback Philip Shelton ran for 99 yards and a touchdown on five carries in the first half to stake the Cougars their halftime lead.
Shelton scored on a 52-yard run on a fourth-down play early in the second quarter that gave Canyon a 7-0 lead.
Killeen junior kicker Alex Gilland booted a 42-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the half to put the Roos on board following a Canyon fumble, one of two by the Cougars in the first half.
Dungca had a 32-yard grab that set the Roos up with a first-and-goal inside the Canyon 5-yard line late in the first quarter. The drive ended when Keondre Parker dropped a lateral pass and the Cougars recovered. Dungca also had a 44-yard punt return for a touchdown called back on a holding penalty.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Dungca said. “It’s not just me. It’s everybody on the field.”
“A lot of teams, they separate (after a loss), but we’re going to come together more as a team. As a team we do things,” he added.
The Roos committed seven penalties for 45 yards in the first half.
Gaskamp threw an interception in the end zone in the final 20 seconds after the Cougars’ second fumble of the half and McCants fumbled a pitch inside the 5 late in the third with the Roos’ trailing 20-3.
“They’re not going to do that every night,” Jones said. “Those same kids, they’re going to throw the ball, they’re going to create a touchdown, they’re going to run the ball, have a touchdown. It’s just one of those nights.”