The only thing that was more abundant than the excitement of a Texas high school football season, were the chances at Leo Buckley Stadium on Friday. The only question was whether the Leander Lions or Killeen Kangaroos would capitalize in the fourth quarter.
Behind a 131-yard effort by junior running back Jamaal King and a Roo defense that forced three turnovers, the Roos gutted out a 20-13 victory. The win gave Neil Searcy his first as Killeen’s new head coach.
“We had a lot of things bounce our way with the turnover game, but I think you make your own opportunities,” Searcy said. “Our kids did a good job of making opportunities and taking advantage of them.”
Senior quarterback Kenny Arnold completed 10 of 22 passes for 88 yards while rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Senior Quemasi Brown was Arnold’s top target with 45 yards on three catches.
Killeen beat Leander 23-20 on the road last season and this season’s game also went down to the wire as
Killeen put up 10 unanswered points in the final 6:26 to clinch the victory.
“That’s when Killeen’s at its best, in the fourth quarter,” Arnold said. “We’re very well conditioned and we’re used to it.”
Running back Ray Gibson, who missed last year’s game, gave Leander a 13-10 lead with a 1-yard run on the left side with 10:03 remaining before Killeen answered with a 10-play, 53-yard scoring drive to take back the lead.
With a first-and-goal from the Leander 13, Arnold hit senior wide receiver and defensive back Jequell Johnson for a 6-yard reception and King followed that with a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle that put Killeen back ahead 17-13 after a Hector Velasquez extra point.
“It feels really good,” King said about the game. “Me and my team are happy to get back on the field and we’re fighting to get back into the playoffs.”
The Roo defense was able to recover a fumble and force a turnover on downs on the next two Leander drives and the Roos clinched the game by keeping it on the ground and taking 3:18 on a nine-play drive that culminated with a 30-yard field goal by Velasquez.
“We knew that we could capitalize and we knew that we would take their opportunities away and become our opportunities,” Johnson said. “We had to make the best on what we could.”
Killeen’s offense was able to rebound from a slow first half in which it amassed only five first downs and had only 99 yards of total offense.
“I’m excited,” junior linebacker Jalil Bethel said. “I’m excited to see what we’re going to do the rest of the season.”
The first half was a defensive struggle as a 34-yard field goal by Velasquez 50 seconds into the second quarter was the only score by either team. The score was set up by Johnson’s interception late in the first quarter.
Killeen looks to go 2-0 next week when it visits Round Rock.