With its playoff future on the line, Killeen proved once again it was the top dog in the city, even without a starting quarterback for much of it.
Despite losing junior quarterback Garrett Gaskamp to an ankle injury late in the first half, Killeen’s offense racked up 567 total yards in a 54-22 blowout of winless Ellison in the 35th all-time meeting between the two crosstown rivals Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“We treated it as a playoff game. We knew if we win this game we were automatically in the playoffs, so we just played hard and knew we were going to win,” Roos junior Daniel McCants said with a chuckle.
The Roos (7-2, 4-2 8-5A) aren’t assured of anything just yet and must beat a beaten down Temple squad in the season finale to solidify a playoff berth, but Friday’s win certainly put them in good position.
Seven different players scored touchdowns for Killeen, including two in the second half from backup quarterback Eric Jackson while Gaskamp spent the game’s final 25 minutes in a protective boot. Before leaving, Gaskamp paced the Roos offense through the air, hitting on 6 of 7 for 179 yards and two touchdowns — an 81-yard bomb to senior DeVarri McCray and a 27-yarder to Akeem Harrison.
“Good things happened to us tonight, but we’re going to have to do what we do, and we’re going to have to regroup with what we have left after the injuries,” Killeen head coach Sam Jones said. “It’s great to score that many points, but sometimes you want to save some for next week.”
Killeen leads the all-time series against Ellison 19-15-1, and has won the last three for the first time since winning four in a row from 2001-2004
It was also the first district game between Killeen’s two oldest schools since 2005, when Ellison won 16-14 to snap the aforementioned Roos win streak.
The Eagles (0-9, 0-6) must win next Friday in the season finale against Shoemaker to avoid their first back-to-back winless seasons, having lost 19 consecutively.
McCants, the 8-5A leading rusher entering the game, repeatedly bounced off Eagle tacklers for extra yardage and finished with 159 yards on 20 carries to inch him 21 yards shy of 1,500 on the season.
“(I just had to) stay low and compact and don’t let them grab on to your jersey, so when they hit you, you just bounce off,” McCants said.
Isiah Cowan, his Ellison counterpart and the district’s second-leading rusher behind only McCants, put forth a game-high 200 rushing yards on 23 carries to move him 7 shy of 1,400 yards.
Killeen scored on each of its first four possessions, moving the ball with relative ease against the Ellison defense, especially through the air.
“I thought we did a great job of being consistent, we mixed it up on them,” Jones said. “I thought (Ellison) did a good job of taking away McCants early, so we threw the ball to try and loosen them up. But we were consistent and finally the passing game worked along with the run.”
The Roos hit paydirt on the ground first with a 5-yard reverse run from receiver Devyn Williams and followed with Gaskamp’s 81-yard strike to McCray two plays after stopping Ellison on fourth-and-goal at Killeen’s own 2-yard line.
The Eagles finally broke through on its third series, thanks to a 27-yard run from Cowan and a 15-yard horse collar penalty against Killeen, when Deon Burch found the edge for a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left in the first quarter.
But the high-octane Roos responded with back-to-back 18-yard runs from McCray and McCants before Gaskamp punched it in from 10 yards out 13 seconds into the second quarter.
After Gaskamp’s touchdown to Harrison put Killeen up 27-7, the Eagles took to the air as quarterback Trenton Jones hit Dajour Jamison for 35 yards over the middle and then found Caleb Moses for a 30-yard screen for a touchdown to pull within 27-14 with 3:34 left before halftime.
Killeen scored on its first series out of halftime on a 29-yard touchdown run from McCants and then scored on it’s next three series following just its second three-and-out on the ensuing drive.