WAXAHACHIE — It’s like they were timed: the bombs.
The Killeen Kangaroos defense worked to get first and second stops only to have Mansfield’s offense erupt in critical third-and-long situations.
Kangaroos head coach Sam Jones kept lifting up the team, reminding them to get that big stop on the next series until there were no series left in their season. Mansfield quarterback Lane Meyer threw for two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns, but his biggest plays were on third down and the Tigers beat Killeen 41-21 in a Division I-5A bi-district playoff game Friday at Lumpkin Stadium.
“We’d stop them two consecutive plays in a row and then they’d get a bomb on third down and it just sucks the life right out of your defense,” said Killeen senior defensive back Deric Roberson.
Mansfield (7-4) converted 7 of 11 third downs, including 4 of 6 on plays that required 8 or more yards to get a first down.
Daniel McCants ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and quarterback Garrett Gaskamp completed 13 of 21 passes for 135 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Roos (7-4), who were making their first playoff appearance in 5A since 2001.
“Making the playoffs is a tradition. No matter what district we’re in, we’re going to get there, we’re going to find a way to win, we’re going to find a way how to get to the playoffs,” said Killeen senior tight end Akeem Harrison. “Yeah, making the playoffs in 5A is a big thing, but for us, it’s normal because we make the playoffs every year and we’re going to continue, that’s a tradition.”
McCants scored on a 35-yarder to cap the Roos’ first drive of the second half and cut Mansfield’s lead to 20-14.
Mansfield fullback Bryan Shanklin answered for the Tigers with a 6-yard touchdown run after converting a fourth-and-1.
Following a Killeen punt, Meyer completed a 27-yard pass on a third-and-7 to the Killeen 27 and a 32-yard pass on a third-and-19 to set up his own 1-yard run that gave the Tigers a 33-14 lead with 1:44 left in the third.
Meyer then threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Shanklin on the Tigers’ next series for the final margin.
“It’s not deflating, it’s a part of the game. We thought we still had a chance if we could stop them, maybe, the next series — there’s always another series,” said Killeen coach Sam Jones said. “But, our kids fought hard the whole time. They did what they’ve done all year long — people say they can’t do this and they can’t do that and they just keep showing up.”
Mansfield scored on one of two Killeen turnovers to end the second quarter to take a 20-7 lead at halftime.
Following the first of Gaskamp’s two interceptions, the Tigers missed a 25-yard field goal, but Gaskamp lost a fumble on Killeen’s next offensive play and Shanklin capitalized with a 3-yard touchdown run with four seconds left in the first half.
Gaskamp, who missed the Roos’ loss to Temple last week with an ankle injury, completed his first seven pass attempts, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Devyn Williams to tie the game at 7 with 6:15 left in the first quarter.
After the two teams traded punts, Meyer completed a 44-yard pass to Lance Evans on a third-and-26 to set up his 5-yard scoring run that gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 8:27 left in the first half.
“I thought we gave them everything they got early,” Jones said. “I still believed we had a chance. I told the kids at halftime, ‘This is a playoff game, you don’t make mistakes like that and expect to win.’ But I said, ‘The good thing about it, we’ve done everything bad and we had a chance to come back.’ I thought it was going to be us 35-20. That’s the way that I felt and I believed that.”