By Kevin Posival and Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
The Grey Wolves are on the verge; they just have to stop beating themselves.
Two weeks ago, Shoemaker was done in by a 21-0 first-half deficit to Bryan. Friday, in its second straight two-point loss to a playoff-contending team, it was a bad snap, the Grey Wolves' one consistent Achilles heel during their 28-game losing streak.
But the hunted is becoming the hunter.
Before its recent string of near-misses, Shoemaker averaged 165 yards and less than six points a game. In its last two games - a 21-19 loss to Bryan and a 23-21 loss to Belton on Friday - Shoemaker has averaged almost 264 yards and 20 points a game.
All of a sudden, the pressure to win is falling more and more on teams standing opposite Shoemaker.
Late rally saves Tigers
It was supposed to be a mismatch - a district favorite, Belton, facing the district doormat, Shoemaker.
It proved to be otherwise.
The Grey Wolves had Belton, which was without leading rusher Donavan Williams due to a suspension, on the ropes for more than three quarters.
However, a team that has been taught how to win by coach Rodney Southern rallied against the team that hasn't quite figured out how to do it yet.
Belton scored late, converted a two-point conversion, hit a quick field goal, got an onside kick and then scored again. And it still wasn't done. They forced a fumble on a bad snap in the end zone for a safety to complete the 20-point turnaround, all in the last 16 minutes of the game.
Heights' run D tested
Throughout Harker Heights' first 3-1 start to the season since 2003, it was its defense leading the way allowing just 22.25 points and 242 yards per game.
Allowing a district-low 429 rushing yards through the first four games, the Knights run defense hadn't given up 100 yards to a single rusher to that point.
But against Belton, Heights was attacked for 188 rushing yards on 30 carries by Tigers tailback Donavan Williams. Less than a week later, the Wildcats duo of speedster Gaylon Sanders (26 carries for 162 yards) and quarterback Zach Allen (12 carries for 111 yards) led a Temple run game that shredded the Knights for a season-high 329 yards.
In two weeks, Harker Heights has allowed a combined 563 yards on the ground, 134 yards more than it allowed in twice as many previous games.
Killeen gets crucial win on the ground
The Roos proved you can get a big win without having a passing game.
Killeen quarterback Garrett Gaskamp was 1-of-6 passing for 10 yards and an interception, but the Roos' backfield combined for 375 rushing yards and all six touchdowns and the defense did the rest, ensuring Killeen didn't start District 8-4A play without a win at Waco University.
Naaman Young ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns and William Mathews ran for 110 and one score to lead Killeen's backfield that had seven different ball-carriers, four of whom scored.
With the game close - Killeen holding on to a 21-19 lead to start the fourth quarter - the defense held the Trojans to just 14 yards in the final 12 minutes of a 44-19 victory.
Bulldawg backups get plenty of action
Another big win for the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs meant another chance for reserves to get plenty of snaps on a Friday night.
Junior running back Chans Colbert and sophomore Vondareaz King each ran for 111 yards. They both saw time behind senior Brandon Hamilton, who led Cove with 133 yards on the ground and three scores. The Dawgs also got backups repetitions under center.
Receiver Robbie Seybold - the offense's second quarterback - took over for starter Orlando Thomas and completed a 23-yard pass to Johnny Sirmans.
Fellow reserve quarterback Andrew Dewald, who wore No. 26, entered late in the fourth quarter and threw a pair of passes to Rashaun Gibson, including a 27-yard touchdown.
Soria provides a bright spot for Ellison in rout
For as much that went wrong for the Ellison Eagles against Copperas Cove, there were a few positives they can take out of Friday's lopsided 64-7 loss.
One was the running of quarterback Daniel Soria. The junior took over for Gregory Bryant early in the first quarter and ran 18 times for 115 yards.
The other was Ellison fighting until the end, even though the game was in hand well before Soria punched in the Eagles' lone touchdown with 4:08 left in the game. It was a long scoring drive for the Eagles, who struggled through four fumbles (two lost) and two interceptions.
By the Numbers
2 - For the second straight week, the Grey Wolves were denied a losing streak-snapping win by two points.
12 - The Roos were flagged 12 times for 85 yards, including five false-start penalties, in their district-opening win over Waco University.
53 - Seconds between a nine-point Temple scoring swing early in the third quarter as Harker Heights gave up a safety and the Wildcats scored on a 29-yard touchdown run by Gaylon Sanders two plays later.
51 - Running plays Ellison ran Friday against Copperas Cove. The Eagles changed to the spread offense a few weeks back, but threw just six passes.
42 - Turnover return yards Copperas Cove had in its 64-7 over Ellison. Reggie Hampton returned a blocked punt 14 yards in the first quarter, while Chris Rhodes returned an interception 28 yards for a score.
15:42 - Time it took for Belton to rally from a 21-3 deficit to Shoemaker to win, 23-21.
Waco (4-2, 1-0 8-4A) at Killeen (5-1, 1-0), Thursday - As big as Killeen's win over Waco University was, Waco's 26-24 upset win at Waco Midway has the Lions poised to make a run at the District 8-4A title.
Harker Heights (3-3, 1-2 12-5A) at Ellison (0-6, 0-3), Friday - Both teams will be looking to break out of a funk. Still seeking an identity, the Eagles have yet to win a game this season while the Knights have back-to-back losses.
Belton (5-1, 2-1 12-5A) at Temple (2-4, 1-2 12-5A), Friday - The rivalry will be more important than it has been in a while as both teams have playoff aspirations. Temple needs a win to get in the race. Belton needs a win to keep its position.
Copperas Cove (5-1, 3-0 12-5A) at Bryan (4-2, 2-1), Friday - The weather could determine how this game turns out between these two running teams. Cove traveled to Bryan two years ago, but came up short on a rain-covered natural grass field.
Shoemaker (0-6, 0-3 12-5A) at A&M Consolidated (3-3, 3-0), Friday - For the first time in more than two years, teams are scheming not to be the team Shoemaker snaps its 28-game losing streak against. The Tigers have won three straight District 12-5A games since starting the season 0-3, but the Grey Wolves are on the cusp of breaking their streak and complicating the 12-5A hierarchy in the process.
Nick Talbot and Alex Byington contributed to this report.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562