“You guys are going to be the guys who put Killeen back on the map.”
That’s what Neil Searcy told the freshmen group his first year as head coach of the Kangaroos back in 2015.
“And I still believe that today,” Searcy said of his first senior varsity class Saturday as the team prepared for its intrasquad scrimmage.
Those same seniors are stepping up to lead a Roo team that is determined to make a playoff appearance.
“All those seniors are doing a great job,” Searcy added, noting that DJ Dormeus is not only leading as a receiver on the field but vocally on the sidelines, along with Cedar Garibaybartolo, Luke Noon and Chris Ingram, to name a few. “All those guys are stepping up and leading the team, and on their side of the ball, as well.”
As the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams rotated throughout the morning, a big hit from Dormeus got both the offensive and defensive lines excited. The senior wide receiver used that energy to help his team stay motivated throughout the morning.
“When one of my brothers makes a play, we’re all excited for him,” Dormeus said. “Whenever anybody makes a play, it gets us pumped up and going.”
Dormeus totaled 791 yards and four touchdowns last season, and he’s seen the dedication the team has displayed in its offseason preparation.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of grit up to this point,” Dormeus said. “Having all of us practice together again after that long break following spring and Roo camp, everybody is finally seeing all the grind they put in over the summer paying off.
“It’s getting everybody on a whole different type of excitement so we’re ready for the season.”
The work Killeen has put in over the summer is evident to Searcy as well.
“I’ve seen a lot of consistency from spring, which is good,” he noted. “With the things we did during the spring, the kids retained it and we were able to really just pick up where we left off.
“That’s always a plus when you can jump into football and not have to do the little things that the summer is supposed to take care of.”
Despite a strong defensive performance, junior Nate Kamper caught a 54-yard pass in the end zone from junior quarterback James Terry.
“We have coach David Gaskamp coming back as assistant head coach and offensive line coach,” Searcy said. “He’s been gone a few years and he kind of just stepped back in like he never left.
“In the five days, I’ve seen a big change in (the offensive line), so it’s been really beneficial for us to get a guy like that back on our staff.”
There’s a couple of new, but familiar, faces on the Killeen coaching staff, including former Roo Levi Fuson, who is coaching receivers.
“They’re stepping in and the kids are responding to them, so it’s been great so far,” Searcy noted.
While the Roos put up a strong performance on both sides of the ball Saturday, there are a few more things Searcy would like to see his team improve before it faces its first district opponent in four weeks.
“Playing consistent and cutting back on mistakes,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.
“With scrimmages and the nondistrict games, we’re going to have to be playing mistake-free football pretty quick because of the quick turnaround in district.”
The district, 12-6A, grew to nine teams in February’s UIL realignment, and Killeen’s bye week isn’t scheduled until the end of October in Week 9.
It will be the largest district the Roos have played in, Dormeus and the other seniors have been helping prepare the young, less experience varsity members for the season ahead.
“We just told them, during the season you’ve got to keep level-headed,” Dormeus said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.
“Just focus on who we have each week and play every week as its own separate thing.”
As Temple and Waco move into the district, Killeen knows that it won’t be an easy journey to the coveted third season — the playoffs.
“Our district is very tough,” Searcy said. “The games are going to boil down to the teams that make the least amount of mistakes in this district, so we have to limit mistakes.
“We won’t be able to afford to make mistakes and think we’re still going to win them because the teams are just too good.”
Dormeus is a self-proclaimed competitive person by nature and is looking forward to facing the Wildcats, especially defensive back Markel Reed, who committed to Texas Tech.
“We used to scrimmage Temple and I was out because I was injured,” Dormeus explained. “So I wasn’t able to play against them.
“Now having them in our district and being able to play an actual game against (Reed), I think it’s going to be really fun.”