Sam Jones had to do it.
I know he didn’t want to.
No one in Killeen wanted to do it.
But, like the rest of the Roos, the Killeen football coach rooted for Copperas Cove.
Killeen needed the help. And Copperas Cove obliged.
Thanks to the Bulldawgs’ 34-6 win over Harker Heights on Friday, Killeen clinched its fifth straight playoff berth and first in 5A since 2001.
“We would’ve liked to have done it ourselves, but we did enough to get in. That’s what it is all about ... that just happened to be the way that it went,” Jones said.
Killeen (7-3) lost to Temple 63-56 in its regular season finale on Thursday night, but because of point differential and head-to-head tie-breakers, the Roos clinched District 8-5A’s third-place playoff seed, and will be the district’s top Division I, or big school, representative in the postseason.
Which is kind of weird.
The top two teams in the district were the two smallest and will have a seemingly easier path to a state title — at least based on the size of their opponents’ enrollments.
However, the Roos draw isn’t so bad.
Killeen plays Mansfield on Friday at Lumpkin Stadium in Waxahachie at 7:30 p.m. in their first 5A playoff game since losing to eventual state champion Lufkin in a 5A-Division II regional round loss 11 years ago.
Mansfield finished fourth in District 7-5A, but like Killeen got bumped up to Division I because it has a larger enrollment than Midlothian and Cedar Hill, which plays Waco Midway and Copperas Cove, respectively, in the first round.
By beating Heights, the Bulldawgs secured the No. 2 seed from 8-5A for the Division II bi-district playoffs.
And with the loss, Harker Heights dropped to fourth and faces the daunting task of opening its first playoff appearance since 2006 against No. 2 DeSoto on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Waco ISD Stadium.
The Knights’ draw is pretty darn bad. After a
4-6 campaign, though, they shouldn’t complain too loudly. At least they are in the playoffs, even if it will be for only one game.
Temple, which seemed like the better team than either Killeen or Heights at times this season — an injury to quarterback Zach Allen and wide receiver Chad President set the Wildcats back immensely in their blowout loss to the Knights — needed the Knights to upset Cove and they would’ve made their second straight playoff appearance while also eliminating the Roos from contention.
So, just like Jones rooted for Jack Welch on Friday, Temple coach Mike Spradlin and the rest of the Wildcats rooted for Harker Heights.
It was all a bit disturbing and ultra-confusing. Breaking down the scenarios this week would have given Stephen Hawking a headache. It nearly gave me an aneurysm.
But by Friday it was clear.
In fact, every team knew a bit too much. If Temple and Killeen played Friday instead of Thursday, no one would have known what was going on and who needed who to win.
The bitter taste in Sam Jones’ mouth as he cheered for Cove, would have been directed at the officials as he played the Wildcats.
Instead, whether or not his team made the playoffs was out of his hands.
There should be a better way, but when it comes down to it, there isn’t. It can be broken down to head-to-head, point differential and even coin flips.
Four teams — half the district — is too many playoff teams. And it creates too many weird scenarios, a long season and lets in a few teams that don’t belong.
But that is the system, and it isn’t changing.
So on a given Friday night, coaches have to do the unthinkable.
They have to cheer.