By Kevin Posival
The Cove Herald
ROUND ROCK - After six years of playing for bragging rights, the Killeen-Ellison rivalry has renewed meaning.
The 35th meeting between Killeen's two oldest high schools will again be a district contest, and many have not forgotten what happened the last time the two met with something other than pride on the line.
"The last time we were in the same district, it was for the playoffs and it made it a lot more exciting at Leo Buckley (Stadium)," Ellison coach Buddy McBryde said.
And the Roos' 2012 district football schedule will be full of games like that last one with Ellison in the 2005 regular season finale.
For the first time since 2003, Killeen Independent School District's four high schools will share the same district and the Roos will finally renew their original rivalries with Temple and Belton in a true Central Texas athletic district, District 8-5A.
Killeen and its current District 8-4A rival Waco Midway were both moved up to Class 5A where they'll join Killeen ISD schools Ellison, Harker Heights and Shoemaker as well as Belton, Copperas Cove and Temple in the University Interscholastic League's biennial reclassification Feb. 2.
"I think they mean a lot more, now. I think they'll be a lot more of a rivalry," Killeen coach Sam Jones said. "I think the rivalry between Temple and Killeen will be back up. ... You throw Midway in there with Cove and Belton and all the Killeen schools, I think you've got a great district - a tough district - and very competitive."
Killeen, which moves back up to 5A after 10 years in 4A, and Midway replace A&M Consolidated and Bryan in what was District 12-5A. Those two schools moved into District 14-5A with four Conroe schools and Lufkin.
"I think it makes sense and as far as financially, the travel benefits our kids educationally not having to take those long trips to Bryan-College Station. I think it's really a home run for us," said Tom Rogers, Killeen ISD director of athletics.
Killeen and Midway, coming off a loss to Lake Travis in the Division I-4A state title game, are two of 17 former 4A schools that made the jump to 5A for the 2012-14 realignment. The UIL increased the 4A-5A cutoff to 2,090 this year after dropping from 2084 to 2064 in 2010. Also making the jump was Lake Travis, which has won five straight state titles in 4A.
Killeen submitted a snapshot enrollment of 2,192.5 in October and Midway turned in 2,127.
"I think the rest of them are kind of used to playing each other, but Midway and us, Killeen High, we haven't played everybody," Jones said. "I've played the Killeen schools, but I haven't played Belton, Temple and Cove in (four) years. ... But, again, I think there's going to be great games, great rivalries, but that's the way it is.
"Texas football is one of the best brands of football there is, and our district is going to show it's very tough."
In addition to saving on travel time and expenses, the new District 8-5A, which competes in Region I, will also bring back some of the area's best long-standing rivalries.
Killeen and Temple played every year between 1956 and 2001, including memorable games in the early 1990s when the two were really enjoying heyday-like success and won a combined two state titles.
The Kangaroos and Tigers haven't played since 1997 in a series that dates back to the early 1900s.
"The Temple-Killeen rivalry, which a lot of our kids don't remember, I think will come back some," Rogers said. "Coach (Mike) Spradlin's done a great job over there and so Temple is back and everybody knows it. It's going to be fun to have that rivalry for sure between Temple and Killeen High."
It also reinvigorates rivalries between Killeen and its three sister schools, which haven't held significant meeting since Killeen became the school district's only 4A school in 2006.
Killeen and Copperas Cove shared District 16-4A with Midway in 2006 and 2007 but Cove was moved up to 5A beginning the 2008 season and hasn't played the Roos or the Panthers since.
"Every school, all eight schools have a close rivalry. That increases that adrenaline for the kids and every ball game is going to be a tough ball game," Copperas Cove coach Jack Welch said. "And then, you're going to have fans involved, they're going to be talking it up. It's just a more exciting, more competitive situation."