Ellison began the 2016 season with a pristine nonleague record and opened District 8-6A with a ton of momentum.
However, the Eagles went just 2-4 the rest of the way, finished 6-4 overall (2-4 8-6A) and missed out on a postseason berth for the ninth consecutive year.
After finishing on the cusp of the postseason a year ago and returning a bevy of talented seniors, Eagles head coach Trent Gregory said the team entered this season brimming with confidence.
“I was real pleased with the kids overall, going all the way back to two-a-days,” Gregory said. “They reported with great attitudes, and the work ethic was amazing with a lot of energy and buzz.”
Ellison averaged just over 49 points per game in its four nondistrict wins over Leander, Round Rock Stony Point, Montgomery and Waco University.
The Eagles’ offense was highly explosive, and it was commandeered by the right arm of senior quarterback Carl Robinson III. Robinson completed 80 of 117 passes for 1,249 yards, 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions in their first four contests.
“We went into our nondistrict games and played really solid,” Gregory said. “We saw some good competition with Leander and Montgomery. Montgomery is a really strong team – they gave us some fits – but we were able to pull that game out, as well as Waco University and Stony Point.”
The Green and White opened District 8-6A competition with a last-second 24-21 win over Shoemaker to improve to 5-0. Junior place-kicker Morgan Button nailed a 32-yard field goal with two seconds left to ensure the win.
In its sixth game, however, Ellison took one on the chin in the form of a 38-3 defeat at the hands of Copperas Cove. After the harrowing loss to the Bulldawgs, it would have been easy for the Eagles to be flat the next week against a powerful Harker Heights squad.
But they weren’t.
Junior wide receiver Jyaire Shorter hauled in eight passes for 187 yards and four TDs to help Ellison defeat the Knights 35-33.
“We felt good going into all of our ballgames,” Gregory said. “But Heights was a big one for us. They do a good job of running the ball and are sound defensively, but our kids played well that night.
“We felt like that was going to be some good momentum that was going to carry us into some of the other ballgames.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The Eagles dropped their final three games to Killeen, Belton and Waco Midway.
“It’s an extremely tough district, and everybody knows that,” Gregory said. “Week in and week out, everybody is going to be good. You’ve just got to bring your lunch with you and be ready to go each and every week.
“We weren’t able to pull out some games that we wanted to, and you learn from those, continue to build and grow and move on.”
Throughout the season, Shorter, Gwynn and Green — along with senior Jayden Smith — were reliable targets for Robinson. Proof was provided when postseason awards were announced, as each member of the quintet was named to an all-district team.
Behind an offensive line led by seniors Forrester Polk and Alexander Buber, among others, senior running back Darrell Peterkine was solid on the ground with 790 yards and five scores on 124 carries.
Defensively, junior cornerback Kipshawn Washington, senior defensive end Tiryek West and senior safety Tevin Dawson were standouts and earned all-district accolades, as well.
Over the last two seasons, the Ellison program has won more games since the 2006-07 campaigns, and Gregory is proud of its growth.
But he is even more proud of the work the 2016 team put in off the gridiron.
“We had 32 of our kids earn academic all-district honors,” Gregory said. “All of the wins are great, and we all want to win on the football field, but that to me is huge. Our athletic department and administration work hand-in-hand to make that happen.”