For most of the District 12-6A season, the Killeen Kangaroos controlled their playoff fate.
The Ellison Eagles beat their longtime crosstown rival 30-20 behind a standout performance from senior Khalil China and put plenty of drama into the season’s final weekend next week.
Unfortunately for Eagles, they won't be part of it.
The Roos would have remained the front-runner for the final playoff spot with a victory. Instead, the biggest winner may be Copperas Cove, at least for now. The Bulldawgs (4-3 12-6A) moved a game ahead of the Roos (4-5, 3-4) and a half-game ahead of Ellison (4-6, 4-4). Cove can clinch the district’s final playoff berth with an upset Friday at home against Temple.
If the Bulldawgs fall short and the Roos beat hapless Waco (0-7) on the road, Killeen stands to win the three-way tiebreaker based on points differential.
Even though Ellison won in impressive fashion, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoff race because they didn't score enough points. They needed a 15-point victory to remain even in next weekend's most likely scenario, a three-way tiebreaker with Killeen and Cove.
Even if Killeen and Cove both lose, Ellison is out because the Bulldawgs will own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Ellison with their 53-27 win last month.
As for Friday's game, first-year Ellison coach Todd Wright won in his debut in the rivalry between the city’s two oldest schools.
Killeen quickly got on the board with a 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Terry to senior wide receiver D.J. Dormeus on the Roos’ first possession of the game.
Later, the Eagles started with their backs against the goal line after senior Willie McGee punted the ball all the way to Ellison’s 8-yard line.
Ellison quarterback Breezion Spiller scrambled out of the pocket and was forced out at the Eagles’ 1 by Roo defensive end Timothy Twilley.
Spiller inched the Eagles forward before launching a pass deep to senior wide receiver Greg Cooke, who was wide open at the 50.
Cooke outran the Roos defenders for a touchdown and Ellison went for the two-point conversion, but it failed.
Killeen led 7-6 in the middle of the first quarter.
The Roos scored again when Blaze Albino took a handoff up the middle and squeezed his way past the Eagles defense for a touchdown to increase the lead to 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Killeen couldn’t make much happen in its two possessions after the half, but the defense stepped up to slow down the Eagles, led by senior linebacker Chris Ingram.
Ingram totaled seven solo tackles on the night.
The Eagles started the final 12 minutes attempting their first field goal of the season at the Roos 10-yard line. Senior kicker Cayden Triggs’ kick was good and Ellison led 23-14 nine seconds into the final period.
Killeen got its momentum back as sophomore wide receiver D’Juan Grant dodged Ellison players for a 75-yard touchdown return. The extra point kick was missed and the Roos trailed 23-20.
Spiller ran in another touchdown of his own in the middle of the quarter and Triggs’ second PAT of the night capped the scoring.
With less than five minutes on the clock, Spiller threw deep and was picked off at the 9-yard line by McGee, but the Roos couldn’t take advantage.
But the defensive stop itself may have been just enough to send the Roos back to the playoffs next Friday.
12-6A PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
- Copperas Cove (4-3) will clinch playoff spot with win vs. Temple next week OR a Killeen (3-4) loss at Waco.
- Killeen clinches with a win AND Cove loss (Roos win three-way tiebreaker).
- With only a 10-point win tonight, there is no scenario for Ellison (4-4) to reach the playoffs.
The games that would be used in the 3-way tiebreaker:
Killeen 48, Copperas Cove 14 (Sept. 21)
Copperas Cove 53, Ellison 27 (Sept. 27)
Ellison 30, Killeen 20 (Nov. 2)
Victory margins are capped at 15 in 12-6A's points system.