AUSTIN – On Thursday night at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, the Killeen Kangaroos played their season-opening football game with heavy hearts.
Defensive end Shakim Wright’s mother, Nicole Dennis, passed away just prior to the team bus departing for Austin. Amazingly, the senior elected to remain with his teammates and play the game.
What occurred later in the evening was an inspiring 21-14 victory for the Maroon and White over Round Rock Stony Point, and being with his teammates in the win was all Wright could have asked for.
“I couldn’t just sit there and be at home when I’ve got another family here,” Wright said after the game. “I know she had a front seat, and she was just sitting there, holding my hand and watching me every play.
“It was a great win, and I’m proud to be a part of this team and this family.”
It was Wright and Killeen’s defense that set the tone in the ballgame, as they held Stony Point under 100 yards by halftime and out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. By the time the Tigers finally reached pay dirt with 11 minutes left in the game, the Roos had already built a 21-0 cushion.
One of Wright’s teammates on the defensive line, Isaiah Bennett, had a career night. The junior registered three sacks, and the Killeen defense punished Stony Point quarterbacks Dashun Horne and Donovan Rybachek with five sacks total.
“I just played tonight like we do in practice — attack, read, make your move and get in the backfield,” Bennett said. “That’s all I did tonight. I saw my opportunity, attacked it and got my sacks.”
Neither team was able to threaten offensively in the opening quarter, but Killeen struck first with 10:27 remaining in the first half thanks to the defense, which forced and recovered one of its three fumbles at the Stony Point 22-yard line.
One play later, Roos quarterback Marcellus Johnson connected on a fade route with wide receiver Montego Muckelvaney in the right side of the end zone for the first score of the game. Hector Velasquez’s extra point made it 7-0.
Two possessions later, Isaac Tolbert took a handoff and raced 63 yards for a touchdown that put Killeen up 14-0 after the subsequent PAT by Velasquez with 2:21 remaining till the break.
Tolbert ended the contest with 154 yards on 21 carries to go along with his score.
“My performance, I give it to the offensive line because without them, we can’t get anywhere,” the senior tailback said. “They worked so hard, and our linemen are so strong. What we wanted to go out there and do was run, run, run.”
The Roos scored their third touchdown in the third quarter on an explosive play. Johnson looked Muckelvaney’s way again, and the two juniors got together on an 86-yard pass that put their team up 21-0 at the 6:09 mark in the third period.
Stony Point got two scores late, but it was not enough. Killeen went on to win by seven, and Roos head coach Neil Searcy was incredibly proud of his team afterward.
“We had to deal with a little bit of adversity,” Searcy said. “I’m so proud of the way the kids surrounded around Shakim, and Shakim wanted to be here and play with his brothers. Those guys played their butt off for him, and I can’t be more proud of being a football coach than I am tonight.
“Our kids showed me a lot about the character of those guys.”