Rodney Southern stood in the meeting room at the new Belton fieldhouse with his hands clasped on the back of a rolling black-leather desk chair.

“This is one of the most balanced districts I have seen in a while,” he said as he pulled the chair out and took a seat and discussed the upcoming football season with the media. “I really believe someone could win this district with a 5-2 record, I really do.”

The preseason prediction the Belton football coach made in early August won’t come true, though.

Not exactly.

Waco Midway is going to run the table in 8-5A and will finish 10-0 overall and 7-0 in district play.

But after Southern’s Tigers pulled off the slight upset of Copperas Cove on Friday at Tiger Field, there might be a few teams tied at 5-2 or 4-3 fighting for the next three playoffs spots when the season ends.

That’s why his main point is right on the money — District 8-5A is one of the most balanced in Central Texas.

Even the team that might finish last in the district, Ellison, gave a potential playoff team all it could take Friday.

“We scrimmaged Midland High before the season, and granted, Midland, isn’t having a great year, but right now, Ellison is a better football team,” said Temple coach Mike Spradlin after his Wildcats rallied late Friday for a 55-48 win over the Eagles.

The way Ellison played Friday, they could knock off someone besides Shoemaker. In the way the Eagles have lost the last two games — inexplicably in the last few seconds — it doesn’t bode well for that upset. But the talent is there to get it done.

That has to have the potential playoff teams worried because none of them can afford to get upset by a winless Ellison team or even struggling Shoemaker.

Last week, it looked like a team with a 3-4 record might back its way into the fourth playoff spot.

It doesn’t seem that way now.

Five teams are shooting for three spots and each team has to aim for 5-2 or at least pray for 4-3 — Belton, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Killeen and Temple.

There isn’t even a pecking order right now.

Belton’s upset of Cove destroyed it.

Heck, Heights is currently in second place with Temple at 3-1, and after center and University of Texas commit Darius James and running back Marcus Anderson II went down with injuries, there were some prognosticators who thought the Knights would be battling for last place.

Now, they have three wins and could finish as high as second.

However, they do finish with Temple, Midway and Copperas Cove and need to knock off one of them to have a chance at even fourth place.

But that is how it is in District 8-5A.

There is so much parity, even the NFL is a little jealous.

When you break it down, there is no telling what is going to happen.

Belton has Killeen, Shoemaker and an almost sure-fire loss to Midway remaining. Even with the upset of Cove, the Tigers need to win two.

In fact, their season may rest on beating Killeen on Friday. So might the Roos’.

Killeen’s last three games are against Belton, Ellison and Temple. It needs to beat its archrival, Ellison, and then probably needs to knock off either Belton or Temple to make the playoffs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, finish the season with the Knights, the Bulldawgs and the Roos. Temple needs to win at least one of those games and maybe two if it wants any kind of breathing room.

Cove might have the easiest three games left with Ellison, Temple and Heights. At 2-2, though, it needs to win at least two or, yes even the mighty Bulldawgs may be left sitting at home in mid-November.

Really, there is only one way to guarantee any of these teams will make the playoffs.

They need to finish 5-2.

Because that is what is going to take.

I really believe that. I really do.

Contact Nick Talbot at or (254) 501-7569

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