A late first-half score by junior running back Daniel McCants was just the beginning of the Killeen Kangaroos rally.
After falling behind 12-0 in the first quarter, the Belton Tigers scored 22 consecutive points to take a 22-12 lead and all of the Roos momentum.
But McCants ran three times for 72 yards, including a 56-yard breakaway and a 9-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left in the first half, to spark the Roos’ to a 45-39 win over Belton in a critical District 8-5A game for both teams at Hood Stadium in Fort Hood.
Starting with that score, the Roos scored 20 straight to take a 33-22 lead into the fourth quarter and then DeVarri McCray and McCants scored on big plays in the final eight minutes to keep the Tigers playing catch-up.
“We knew we could beat them. We knew we just had a couple of mistakes,” said McCants of the second quarter. “We knew how to fix it. We went in, we talked about it, we fixed it, we came back out and we did what we had to do.”
McCants finished with 272 yards and three touchdowns, including a win-clinching 74-yarder with 4:40 to play. The Roos defense scored twice, including an 8-yard fumble return by Quantavis Patterson in the third quarter and a 43-yard interception return by Deric Roberson.
“We got lackadaisical. We let off a little bit, took our foot off their throats and they just started to come back and started executing on us,” Roberson said. “We know what kind of defense we have and our coaches know what kind of defense we have. When we went in at halftime, they got as all up and let us know, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win this game.’ We came out firing.”
The Tigers tied the game at 32 on Peter Shelburne’s 10-yard run with 9:20 left, but McCray scored on a 56-yard check-down pass and McCants followed with his game-breaker less than three minutes later that all but put the game — the first between the two old rivals since 1997 — out of reach.
Heights offense finally rising behind Anderson
Offensively-challenged throughout much of the season, Harker Heights struggled to steadily move the ball through its season-opening three-game losing streak.
But after scoring a combined 24 points in its first five games, the resurgent Knights (4-4, 4-1 8-5A) have combined to score 95 during their three-game win streak, including a season high 42 in last Friday’s 42-7 upset of Temple.
The shift coincides with the return of junior tailback Marcus Anderson II, who has rushed for nearly 300 yards in two games this season (including 183 against Temple). But it’s his propensity for big plays — including runs of 7 or more yards — that has added a new dimension to the Knights’ ground game.
Of his 22 rushing attempts Friday, 10 went for 7-plus yards including touchdown runs of 41 and 48 yards. That also helped the rest of the Knights offense as 17 of their 47 runs went for 295 of Heights season-high 347 rushing yards.
Cove snaps two-game skid
Copperas Cove was far from perfect in the first quarter against Ellison, but the Bulldawgs still found a way to dominate.
Despite possessing the ball for less than 90 seconds in the opening quarter and allowing the Eagles to strike first, Copperas Cove controlled the remainder of the game to earn a much-needed 34-9 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak heading into a critical pair of games to end the season.
The Bulldawgs went three-and-out on their first possession and turned the ball over on a fumbled kickoff to head into the second quarter trailing 3-0. Then, the script was flipped.
With running back Daniel Ruff accounting for the Bulldawgs’ first two scores on a pair of touchdown runs within 62 seconds of each other in the early minutes of the second quarter, Copperas Cove posted 21 consecutive points and never allowed Ellison to get closer than a dozen points for the remainder of the game.
Ruff finished with 262 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries to win the running back battle against Ellison’s Isiah Cowan, who accounted for all but 28 of the Eagles’ total yards, running for 207 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries.
By the Numbers
- 7 — Ellison punts in a 34-9 loss at Copperas Cove. The Eagles finished the game with 11 possessions.
- 23 — Rushing attempts by Temple that went for 3 or less yards out of 43 total as Harker Heights limited the Wildcats to just 189 yards on the ground, a 4.4 yard-per-carry average.
- 11 — Combined punts in the first half by Waco Midway and Shoemaker as neither offense could sustain a drive. Midway rallied for a 40-20 win over the Grey Wolves.
- 22 — Consecutive points scored by the Belton Tigers in the second quarter against Killeen. After rallying from a 12-0 deficit to lead 22-18 at halftime, the Tigers were outscored 27-17 in the second half.
- Waco Midway (8-0, 5-0 8-5A) at Harker Heights (4-4, 4-1), 7 p.m. Thursday — The District 8-5A-leading Panthers and second-place Knights are two of the hottest teams in the area, with Heights winners of three straight and Midway having yet to lose all season. The Panthers are averaging a district-best 47 points per game in district while the Knights are limiting teams to just 13.8, including holding high-scoring Temple to just seven last Friday.
- Copperas Cove (5-3, 3-2 8-5A) at Temple (5-3, 3-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday — Both teams need to earn this victory to keep their roads to playoffs as uncluttered as possible. Should Killeen defeat Ellison, the loser between Copperas Cove and Temple would find itself outside the playoff picture heading into the regular-season finale.
- Killeen (6-2, 3-2 8-5A) at Ellison (0-8, 0-5), 7:30 p.m. Friday — The Roos, coming off a big 45-39 win over Belton, are a game away from clinching at least a share of fourth place, but face rival Ellison in a trap game against the upset-minded Eagles, who, prior to a 34-9 loss at Copperas Cove, lost to Harker Heights and Temple by a combined 10 points.
- Shoemaker (1-7, 0-5 8-5A) at Belton (5-3, 2-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday — The Tigers’ playoff hopes took a serious hit in their 45-39 loss to Killeen, but they could still force a tie by winning their final two games of the season. Shoemaker is playing for pride, but that was nearly enough to knock off undefeated Waco Midway. The Panthers scored 21 straight points in the final 18 minutes to snap a 20-20 tie and avoid the upset.
Clay Whittington and Nick Talbot contributed to this report.