Six playoff wins in four years and a recognized brand of football, the Killeen Kangaroos aren’t going to surprise anyone in District 8-5A.
Pedigree alone is not going to get anyone into the playoffs from this district, though.
“I’ve been saying all along, our kids know how to win,” said Killeen coach Sam Jones. “They believe they can win and in Texas, 4A, 5A, it doesn’t make a difference about the A’s, it’s about believing and the program — kids buying into the program. ... All these things are going to help us, prepare us for a run this year.”
The Roos enter their first 5A district season since 2001 following a run of four straight playoff appearances in 4A after the UIL shuffled Killeen and Waco Midway into 8-5A and moved A&M Consolidated and Bryan out.
“I think Midway reminds me a whole lot of A&M Consolidated in terms of their style and what they do and I think Bryan and Killeen athletically are very similar,” said Belton coach Rodney Southern. “I don’t think it changes a lot on either side, I think it’s just two more good football teams that we’ve got to play.”
The sprint for one of the district’s four playoff seeds appears to be five-horse race between defending District 12-5A champion Copperas Cove, District 8-4A co-champion Midway, Belton, Killeen and Temple.
“Our number one goal is to make the playoffs,” said Temple coach Mike Spradlin. “Everybody talks about winning championships and all of that, but you can’t win it if you’re not in it. You’ve got to get in it. With that comes the opportunity that everybody has right now at 0-0.”
Harker Heights, which has suffered critical injuries to crucial players in nondistrict, and Shoemaker, though, present enough problems to either trip up a front-runner or run around one that’s not paying attention. Only Ellison seems like a long-shot to be among the top four at the end of the season.
“I know a couple of the teams have had some injuries, which has hurt them, but I think once you get into district play, everybody’s 0-0. And, the thing about having close rivalries like this is you know, basically, what they have on their team,” said Cove coach Jack Welch.
“So as I look at the area teams, I say this is very, very close-knit and I think every ball game is going to be extremely tough.”
Killeen seemingly has a rivalry game every week but the Roos (3-0) aren’t circling any particular dates. They’re keeping with the status quo of playing week-to-week beginning tonight at Copperas Cove (2-1).
The Roos and Bulldawgs haven’t played since 2007, a 33-10 Cove win in Robert Griffin III’s senior season. The Bulldawgs have won the last 10 meetings since losing to Killeen 37-14 in 1995.
Shoemaker (1-2) is playing at Temple (2-1) in a game that two years ago the Wildcats won for the only win between the two schools in 2010.
Temple made the playoffs last season while the Grey Wolves snapped a 31-game losing streak and were just a handful of points away from the playoffs after putting both Temple and Belton on the ropes.
Harker Heights (0-3), a serious contender before preseason injuries to Texas pledge Darius James and running back Marcus Anderson II derailed the Knights’ ambitious start, is hosting Belton (3-0).
Midway, which lost to five-time 4A state champion Lake Travis in the Division I-4A title game a year ago, and Copperas Cove seem like the only true favorites. Belton is a perennial contender as of late and Temple’s shown a resurgence of its tradition under Spradlin, who was hired just last season.
Killeen has mostly flown under the radar because the Roos haven’t played an area team in district since 2007, when they shared District 16-4A with Cove and Midway, and haven’t played another KISD school in district since a loss to Ellison in 2005.
“I don’t think we’ve been forgotten about,” Jones said. “Everybody knows the brand of football Killeen High plays and we’ll continue to do that. I don’t think it’s going to be a surprise for anybody, though.”