The Killeen ISD academic year is in its twilight and the first regular-season game is almost three month away but, make no mistake, the 2014 football preseason got underway on Tuesday.
The Shoemaker Grey Wolves, Killeen Kangaroos, Harker Heights Knights and Ellison Eagles opened 7-on-7 league play at Shoemaker High School.
“It’s amazing to get out, get to play football and hang out with your friends, get together and get to know each other better,” Killeen quarterback Keondre Parker said. “It’s great, I love it.”
All four teams played 25-minute games against one another
with the Roos taking three wins against their other district rivals.
For Parker, the 7-on-7 league is crucial.
The junior is taking over the role of starting quarterback this fall and hopes to lead the Roos to a better finish than in 2013 when they went 3-7 overall, including a 3-4 District 8-5A record. Killeen finished one game out of the playoffs.
“The more you hang out with your teammates, the more you understand them,” Parker said. “When the game comes around, you understand how they play, they understand how you play and you’re able to connect.”
Parker set the tone from the beginning in Killeen’s win over Ellison with a 40-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game.
Though the outcomes of the 7-on-7 league games don’t mean anything in the long run, Shoemaker wide receiver and running back Derrick Thomas was out to compete.
He may have been a bit tired, but he asked back into the game against Killeen when time was running down and the Grey Wolves needed to make a rally.
“It’s very competitive,” Thomas said. “I know the main reason is to have fun, but I like to get out here, compete and see how far we can go in the season.”
Thomas and the Grey Wolves had the best showing of any KISD school last year when they finished third in district and made the second playoff appearance since the school opened in 2000.
The league may be a way to keep the skills sharp, allow players to develop chemistry with each other and get a jump start on the season before teams start practice in mid August.
But for Thomas, the league adds to the rivalry the four schools have with one another.
“The only difference is there’s no contact,” Thomas said. “You still have somebody guarding you, you still got to go out and catch the ball.”
The skill position players weren’t the only ones getting in on the fun as the league also includes a lineman challenge that began 30 minutes before the traditional 7-on-7 games on the field.
Two linemen teams from Shoemaker, one from Killeen and one from Ellison competed in a bench press, truck push, dumbbell carry and obstacle course. Each team gained points depending on where they finished in those four individual events.
The Shoemaker Black team took first place with nine points, Killeen was second with seven, Shoemaker Blue was third with six and Ellison was fourth with five.
League play continues next Tuesday at Killeen High School. Middle school games begin at 5 p.m., the high school lineman challenge begins at 5:45 p.m. and the high school 7-on-7 games begin at 6:15 p.m.
Ellison will host league play on June 17 and Heights will host the final league week on June 24.