In 2013 the Killeen Kangaroos came up one win shy of making the postseason.
But the work toward the 2014 playoffs begins today when the Roos kick off spring football practice on the Killeen High campus.
“It feels good,” Killeen head coach Sam Jones said. “We get a chance to put the pads back on and start over again.”
The University Interscholastic League allows Class 5A and 4A schools to conduct 18 spring football practices, but must begin fall workouts during the second Monday in August.
Killeen finished the season 3-7 overall and 3-4 in District 8-5A, one game behind Copperas Cove for the fourth and final playoff spot.
To get to the playoffs, the Roos have to find replacements for key players from the 2013 season.
Killeen will play its annual Maroon and White football game May 23 at 7 p.m. at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Running back and playmaker
Speed was an asset for Killeen last year as Daniel McCants was an all-district first-team running back and returner after rushing for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns and averaging more than 30 yards per kickoff return.
Jones said junior wide receiver Djiron Lilley could provide the Roos with a speedy replacement to McCants as a running back this season after playing slot receiver in 2013.
“McCants is the type of back that you may get once every five or 10 years, but I still believe that Lilley’s got a lot to bring to the table,” Jones said. “He’s a good-looking kid that runs hard and it’s his time to step up.”
Tarleton State signee Garrett Gaskamp threw for 1,985 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior last year.
Jones said Keondre Parker could step into that role since he played a bit at quarterback last year. He was primarily a wide receiver in 2013.
“That’s the great thing about a program,” Jones said. “When your seniors graduate, the underclassmen have watched and it’s their time to step up and fulfill their role as leaders.”
Lamont Alexander gave the Roos a good pass rush last season and was an all-district second-team selection.
Pressuring the quarterback will be a big key and Jones said linebacker Peyton Searcy could be the team’s best pass rusher after making it onto the all-district first team last season as a junior inside linebacker. Junior linebacker Deon Scott could play at defensive end and the Roos will likely experiment with different players at that position.
Copperas Cove star quarterback Manny Harris will be a senior next year, but he’s not the only talented signal-caller returning next season.
Four of the top six passers in the district were juniors last season. That means defensive backfields will be tested often.
Jones said sophomore defensive back Jaquell Johnson will be looked upon to take a bigger role in the defense next year.
“We’re just excited for the opportunity to get better and that’s what spring training is all about,” Jones said.