The Harker Heights offense was putrid.
The Knights were dead last in District 8-5A in yards per game and scoring going into Friday’s game against Temple.
Yet, Knights coach Mike Mullins wanted his team to have the ball to start the game.
He knew the Temple defense had not stopped anyone all season, giving up nearly 450 yards per game.
The Wildcats’ porous defense wasn’t any better Friday, giving up 408 yards of total offense to Harker Heights.
But the Wildcats offense hadn’t been stopped either, averaging 40.5 points per game and 555 yards per game before facing the Knights’ top-ranked defense.
It left with a lone touchdown on the scoreboard, 304 yards on the stat sheet and a humbling 42-7 loss.
Simply put, defense wins championships — as long as it gets at least a little help from the offense.
Few teams have moved the ball effectively on the Knights this season.
Killeen did it on the ground. And even Ellison had some success there, putting up 22 points on Heights.
But Mullins knew his team could stop Temple.
He knew they could take away Temple’s best weapon — the passing of Syracuse commit Zach Allen.
But first he wanted to send a message that his offense couldn’t be stopped, despite evidence to the contrary.
Through the first five games of the season, the Knights had scored 24 points — an average of 4.8 per game.
But slowly, Harker Heights has been making progress and slowly, the offensive execution has gotten better.
It put up 25 in a last-second win over Ellison.
Then the Knights scored 28 on Shoemaker. Finally, it got a quick jolt of life back Friday in junior running back Marcus Anderson II.
Anderson’s 183 rushing yards spearheaded a ground attack that put up 347 yards against Temple.
More importantly, Heights started the game with an 81-yard drive that even included a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy Smith to Terance Goodwin on a third-and-17.
That drive got the Knights believing.
Anderson then added the breakaway runs the Knights had been lacking all season. He scored from 41 yards out and then 48 yards out. Add in three touchdowns from Tyler Brown and Heights was feasting on the Wildcats in a blowout no one expected.
Before the season, the Knights looked like the most plausible KISD team to make the playoffs.
After the first three weeks of nondistrict play, though, Harker Heights looked like it would be lucky to win a game.
Anderson went down with a fracture in his leg. Texas commit and the No. 1 ranked center in the country, Darius James, was lost for the season.
The Knights lost to Round Rock, Cedar Park and Round Rock Stony Point. They scored a combined 10 points in the three loses.
But then they beat Belton 7-0.
It was not pretty. But it threw what looked like a wrench into the playoff picture and pitted the Knights as the spoiler. They had potentially knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs and perhaps had put the Roos into the playoffs.
Friday, though, the Knights proved they are not playing the role of spoiler. They are the favorite — at least to finish second behind undefeated No. 11 Waco Midway.
At 4-1, the Knights have all but clinched a playoff spot, while now both Belton and Temple are hurting.
With an offense that is somewhat capable of scoring and a defense that is stifling, Harker Heights is in control of its own destiny,
It has not just a shot at the playoffs, but for a district championship. The Knights face Waco Midway on Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium. If the Knights win, a district title is within reach.
The ball is now in their hands.
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569