By Alex Byington and Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Seeking to snap out of their 31-game losing streak, the Shoemaker Grey Wolves put their faith in the hands of their best playmaker.
And junior Wildcat quarterback Johnny Jefferson didn't disappoint.
Beginning with his first carry - a 61-yard touchdown run - Jefferson's big-play potential was on full display, and the Grey Wolves saw it pay off with the program's first win in three-plus years.
"I told my team, 'We're going to win, we're going to run it down their throat every play. So, play man-on-man and I'm going to make things happen,'" Jefferson said. "That's what they did and we came out here with a victory."
Accounting for 267 yards of total offense, each of Jefferson's five total scores resulted from plays of 15 yards or more,
amassing 184 yards. His four rushing scores capped touchdown drives that lasted a combined 4 minutes and 39 seconds.
"That's what we expect from that young man, and he knew that," first-year Shoemaker head coach Channon Hall said. "We expect more from him next season, more of that."
And with Jefferson leading the way, more wins should follow.
Thomas turns mishap into Cove magic
In his second year at quarterback, University of Texas-committed athlete Orlando Thomas has steadily improved his passing for Copperas Cove.
But, while he's still not much of a downfield threat, it's always been his uncanny ability to turn nothing into something that makes him the best option to take the snap.
Thomas only needed one play Thursday against Harker Heights to prove that.
With the Bulldawgs struggling offensively in the third quarter, Thomas bobbled the shotgun snap on the first play of Cove's second possession. Originally designed to be a pitch to tailback Brandon Hamilton, Thomas decided instead to take it himself, telling Hamilton to lead block as he turned the corner and outraced the entire Heights defense - and even Hamilton - for a 68-yard touchdown. The score put the Bulldawgs ahead 29-6 entering the fourth quarter.
Future is bright for Knights, Anderson
While injuries to key offensive starters inhibited Harker Heights' playoff hopes, they nevertheless allowed others the opportunity to step up in their absence.
Sophomore tailback Marcus Anderson II was one of those who shone brightest when his number was called.
With senior running back Marvin Jackson relegated to the sideline with a recurring ankle injury, along with starting quarterback C.J. Rodriguez (knee), Anderson received the majority of the carries in Heights' run-based spread offense.
Rushing 24 times for 112 yards and two scores in the season finale against Copperas Cove, it was Anderson's hard-charging approach that forced the Copperas Cove defense to stay home, allowing dynamic but diminutive backup quarterback Greg Haynes to find running lanes to the outsides for a career-best 177 rushing yards.
Belton deep passes kept Consolidated honest
The A&M Consolidated defense could not play eight in the box to stop Donavan Williams, who ran for 243 yards on 28 carries in Belton's 26-23 win.
The reason? Consol couldn't stop Belton's vertical passing game either.
Belton first opened it up when Peter Shelburne, who threw for 226 yards in the first half alone, hit Levi Jordan wide open for 30 yards. Belton missed the ensuing field-goal attempt, but the next time they scored as Shelburne hit Derrick Bates, who had five catches for 119 yards, wide open for a 55-yard score. Late he found tight end Durham Smythe for 50 yards and a score.
And when Consol played back in the second half to stop the deep pass, Williams ran wild, going for 36 and 34 yards, respectively, on crucial situations for Belton that each set up the two field goals that lifted Belton over Consol.
Ellison's Cowan emerges as true playmaker
While both Ellison and Shoemaker were fighting to avoid the same fate - an 0-10 season - the game turned into a track meet between a pair of tailbacks.
Although it was the Grey Wolves' Johnny Jefferson and his 215 rushing yards and five total touchdowns that won the day, another junior runner gave the Eagles something to build on going into next season.
Bruiser Isiah Cowan had the game of his short career, rushing for 183 yards on 20 carries to reinvigorate an Ellison offense that had struggled to put up points this season.
With just two plays, Cowan changed that, taking the opening handoff of back-to-back drives 64 and 31 yards to the end zone to spark the Eagles and avoid a fourth shutout on the season.
4th running back emerges from Roos' backfield
Keaton Morris just does what he's asked to do.
With Killeen's top three running backs all nursing various bumps and bruises, the senior receiver filled in the empty backfield and became the fourth Roos back to run for 100 or more yards in a game in Killeen's 33-19 loss to Waco Midway on Friday.
Morris finished with 121 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown on 21 carries, providing a spark to an out-of-sync Killeen offense. Morris also had a pair of receptions for 32 yards, giving him 173 of Killeen's 335 total yards of offense.
"Keaton's a tough kid, big-hearted kid and he just wants a chance to play," Killeen coach Sam Jones said. "You've got to practice hard, play with emotion in practice and it carries over, and Keaton's a prime example of that."
By the Numbers
6 - Drives Killeen's offense started inside its own 20-yard line - including five inside its own 15 and three inside the 10 - in the Roos' loss to Waco Midway.
9 - Penalties Harker Heights tallied in a season-ending loss to Cove, moving backward 60 yards.
159 - Total yardage of Shoemaker tailback Johnny Jefferson's four touchdown runs in Friday's win over Ellison.
9.15 - Average yards-per-carry of Ellison junior tailback Isiah Cowan in Friday's loss to Shoemaker.
23 - Rushing touchdowns for Copperas Cove running back Brandon Hamilton on the season after four more against Harker Heights.
17.8 - Yards per completion for Belton in its win over A&M Consolidated.
Belton (8-2) vs, Mesquite (5-5), Friday at Corsicana, 7:30 p.m. - Mesquite played a brutal schedule this season, losing games to DeSoto, Denton Ryan and Longview. Now, the Skeeters, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2007, must face Belton, which is coming off a huge win over A&M Consolidated, in the first round of the playoffs.
Copperas Cove (9-1) vs. Mesquite Horn (3-6), 1 p.m. Saturday at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium - These two meet in the rubber match of their Division II-5A bi-district series - Cove beat Horn 21-7 in 2008 at Waco ISD Stadium on the way to the semifinals and the Jaguars returned the favor last year 48-14 on the way to the region finals.
Killeen (6-4) vs. Granbury (5-5), 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium - With 1,600-yard rusher Brandon Davis, Granbury reached the playoffs for the second straight year, finishing as 7-4A's third-place team and top Division I candidate thanks to an Arlington Seguin loss to Cleburne in the regular season finale. The Roos, meanwhile, will be making their fourth straight playoff appearance but will be looking to get out of the first round for the first time since 2009.