Harker Heights and Killeen were each in a must-win situation, and both emerged disappointed.
Entering the final game of the regular season, the Knights and Kangaroos each needed a victory in order to avoid elimination from the playoff race.
Although Harker Heights departed from Leo Buckley Stadium with a 35-24 win, the Knights’ hopes were dashed thanks to Copperas Cove’s come-from-behind 37-35 victory at Belton, giving the Bulldawgs District 8-6A’s final postseason berth.
While the outcome left Harker Heights head coach Jerry Edwards unsatisfied, he admitted the Knights had nobody to blame but themselves.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Edwards said, “but that is what happens when you leave fate in other people’s hands. We had opportunities during the season to take care of our own fate, and we lost a couple games that I felt we should have won.
“But when you leave it up to chance, sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”
The Knights never trailed in the contest, holding Killeen scoreless in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to return to the postseason for a second consecutive year.
Harker Heights was able to make some history, however, defeating all three of the Killeen ISD schools in one season for the first time under Edwards.
And it did not take long for Harker Heights to take control.
After Killeen punted away the game’s opening possession, the Knights capitalized on the opportunity, covering 91 yards in eight play with Jameel Hodges’ 44-yard run into the end zone punctuating the drive. Hodges posted 120 rushing yards on 16 carries in the first half and finished with a game-high 157 yards.
On the heels of another punt, Harker Heights (5-5, 3-3) inflated its cushion to 14-0 after Jaquan Tillis punched in a 1-yard touchdown to convert a fourth-and- goal with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Then, the Kangaroos began climbing back into the contest.
With 9 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the first half, Zion Love put Killeen (4-6, 2-4) on the scoreboard with a 19-yard run.
Approximately seven minutes later Jesus Gomez sliced the deficit to 14-10 with a successful 24-yard field goal, and the score held for the duration of the half.
“That slow start really hurt,” Killeen head coach Neil Searcy said. “For us to be successful, we need to get off to a fast start.
“It just does something for our psyche.”
The Knights immediately extended their advantage as Tillis took the first snap of the second half 62 yards for a touchdown, triggering a series of scores.
Killeen quarterback Marcellus Johnson sandwiched a pair of touchdown passes to Love, who posted a game-high 133 receiving yards, and D.J. Dormeus around Tillis’ third touchdown run, making the score 28-24 with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Tillis finished with 15 carries for 89 yards and six receptions for 95 yards.
But the Kangaroos would not get any closer as Harker Heights completed the game’s scoring with Marcel Ramirez’s 38-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Duncan Ard.
“We came out and got a win,” Edwards said, “and we swept the KISD schools, which was a goal of ours at the beginning of the year.
“So, we get to end the year on a positive.”