AUSTIN — No one was more disappointed with Daniel McCants’ second fumble than McCants himself.
No one more focused to make amends.
Except for maybe the Killeen Kangaroos’ defense.
Following Matthew Ballard’s second interception, McCants scored the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left to lift the Roos their second straight last-minute win 23-17 over Leander Vandegrift on Friday at Ed Monroe Stadium.
“I just wanted to run hard and make sure I got it for my team,” said McCants, who ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. “We’re just a hard-working team. We mess up sometimes, but we work hard. We know how to get back into the game.”
Trailing 14-0 after the first quarter, the Roos (2-0) scored 17 unanswered points until Vandegrift kicker James Hallonquist’s 31-yard field goal tied the game 17 with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter.
McCants’ second fumble followed the Roos’ ensuing drive, but Ballard, one of three newcomers in the Roos’ secondary, intercepted Vipers quarterback Forrest Threadgill for the second time in the second half to set up McCants’ 9-yard score that gave Killeen its second straight last-second win to start the season.
“They’re finding a way to win and they’re believing in each other and they believe they can play better than the last play,” Killeen coach Sam Jones said. “What we’re trying to do now is tell them, ‘Don’t get too far down on yourself now because you made one bad play, let’s make five or six good plays.’ I think both sides of the ball showed that. We had bad moments, but we had good moments. We had more good than bad.”
Garrett Gaskamp completed 3 of 4 passes for 37 yards and ran for seven yards; McCants carried three times for 14 yards on the 9-play, 58-yard drive that started with just 2:17 left in the game.
McCants also scored on a 4-yard run with 5:27 left in the third that gave Killeen its first lead, 17-14 and returned the second-half kickoff 41 yards to set up Gaskamp’s 1-yard touchdown run that trimmed Vandegrift’s lead to 14-10 two minutes into the third quarter.
Gaskamp was 18-of-30 passing for 164 yards and no interceptions and carried 11 times for 49 yards and the one touchdown.
“McCants is a big-hearted kid. He knows he’s going to make good plays and knows he may have a bad play, but he didn’t get down on himself,” Jones said. “If we can get that contagious across our team, I think we’ll be okay.”
Tristen Paffe scored twice to give the Vipers (1-1) a 14-0 lead before the Roos even crossed midfield in the first half.
Paffe scored the game’s first points on a 2-yard run that was set up by a pass interference call against Killeen in the end zone on the previous play and a 42-yard pass from Forrest Threadgill to Brandon Downer.
Following a 24-yard punt by Killeen’s Akeem Harrison, Paffe scored on a 22-yard pass from Threadgill on a 1st-and-20 play that gave the Vipers a 14-0 lead with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. He had a 12-yard run called back the previous play on a holding penalty.
Phantanasin Sandon’s 31-yard field goal with 1:46 left in the first half finally put Killeen on the scoreboard.
Gaskamp’s score trimmed that on the opening drive of the second half and Ballard’s first interception occurred on Vandegrift’s ensuing drive and set up McCants’ first score.
“I was real tired, but I stuck in there for my team, fought hard and just did it for my team,” Ballard said. “They would’ve have happened without my teammates, they helped me do it.”