Last year Mother Nature forced the Killeen Kangaroos to cancel their spring football game, the first such event for then-sophomore Keondre Parker.
But on Friday, with the lights on and the focus on him at quarterback, nothing was going to rain on his performance.
Parker threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns while running for 65 yards on nine carries during the Maroon and White Spring Football Game on Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“We just came out here, had fun, played as a team and competed,” Parker said. “We got aggressive, and that’s how we want to be next year.”
Parker completed 7 of 21 passes. All three quarterbacks rotated with both teams to play with as many different lineups during the Maroon team’s 21-17 win.
The spring game served as a culmination to Killeen’s spring football season. The Roos are looking to improve upon a 2013 season when they went 3-7, including a 3-4 District 8-5A mark, and missed the playoffs by one game.
In order to make the postseason, the Roos have to find some key replacements for players that graduated, like Tarleton State signee Garrett Gaskamp at quarterback.
Parker moves to quarterback after playing on the varsity team last season at wide receiver and cornerback.
“He’s played on varsity, but not at quarterback and it’s going to take a little time,” Roos head coach Sam Jones said. “In 7-on-7 he’ll be a lot better, and by the time we get through our preseason, I think we’ll be where we need to be for district.”
Parker made things happen with his legs early on, going for a 34-yard option keeper to help the Maroon team get into field goal range and take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
Things didn’t come easy for him through the air early as he missed on all five of his first passes before things changed all on one play.
Facing a third-and-15 from his own 20-yard line, Parker aired out a pass to Maroon team speedster Dante Ellis-Thomas that went for 63 yards to the White team 12-yard line.
“I got into the rhythm of it,” Parker said. “At first, I’m not used to it, then I got into a flow, saw what the defense did and counteracted it, worked with it.”
Parker connected with Ellis-Thomas on a fade route to the far right corner of the end zone that made it 7-3 Maroon.
“Once we got out and started running plays, we noticed we could get them,” Ellis-Thomas said. “As soon as we started running that, we scored on the second drive and that built the momentum.”
That wasn’t the last of Parker’s big passes as he hit White team receiver Javon McCray for a 55-yard scoring connection down the sideline that helped the White team reclaim the lead at 17-14 just before halftime.
“The safety didn’t go over the top like he usually does, he stayed there and went to the out route,” Parker said. “I kind of let it fly for a one-on-one chance and let it flow.”
Parker completed five of his last seven passes in the first half. He had 143 yards and two touchdowns before the teams broke for the halftime break.
The defense turned things up in the second half as both teams combined for just three first downs and failed on a combined nine third-down conversions.
“We knew we had to make plays on each side,” junior linebacker Peyton Searcy said. “It was the fourth quarter, we had to make plays.”
The game featured three lead changes, the last coming early in the fourth quarter when wide receiver Ellis-Thomas lobbed a reverse pass 77 yards to Keleen Yates for the winning touchdown.
“I told coach to put me at quarterback, but he won’t listen,” Ellis-Thomas joked. “Coach called the play, I did it for a touchdown, clutch.”
Ellis-Thomas led all receivers with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Seven different running backs look to replace the void left by first-team all-district selection Daniel McCants. White team rusher DJ Lilley led all rushers with 70 yards on eight carries and caught a 5-yard pass.
Lilley was a part of Killeen’s Class 5A UIL Championships silver medal-winning 400-meter relay team and worked out with the football team for less than two weeks.
Julian Footman led all Maroon team rushers with 65 yards on seven carries.
“I’m excited about our kids,” Jones said. “The potential is there, we just have to get better. Better camp, have a great 7-on-7 league play and I think we’re going to be OK.”
Fall football practice begins Aug. 11 for teams that had spring football. Contact drills begin four days later. The Roos open the regular season Aug. 29 at Leander and begin district play Oct. 10 at Hood Stadium against Belton.
“You remember a good game, you want to work hard and have a better game when the season comes around,” Parker said.
Contact Albert Alvarado at email@example.com