By Justin Boyd
Killeen Daily Herald
With one minute remaining in the first half and trailing 7-6, it seemed as if the Harker Heights Knights were locked in for a close ball game with the Stony Point Tigers.
But by the eight-minute mark in the third quarter, the Knights had quickly built a comfortable 23-7 lead en route to a 37-14 win Friday night at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Back to the second quarter.
The Knights took the lead with 55 seconds remaining in the half as quarterback Donnie Shorts found running back Maurice Lathan running alone on the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown. Shorts followed, adding the 2-point conversion from 2 yards out to give Heights a 14-7 halftime lead.
Stony Point's chances of staying with the Knights quickly evaporated as Tigers running back Marcus Graham mistakenly put his team down two more points.
Graham fielded the second-half kickoff at his own 1 and attempted to kneel down, thinking he was in the end zone. But before Graham's knee touched the ground, he realized his error and in turn created a bigger error, stepping behind the goal line and kneeling down for a safety.
Following the safety, Heights got the ball back on the Stony Point 45-yard line and nine plays later found themselves up 23-7 as Lathan hit paydirt from 5 yards out.
"Offensively we shot ourselves in the foot in the first half," Knights head coach Ross Rogers said. "Our mental approach just wasn't too good tonight."
Going into the contest, Rogers expected the Knights would face a tougher Tigers defense with the addition of new head coach Craig Chessher. Chessher was the defensive coordinator for the 2003 Division I-5A State champion Galena Park North Shore.
"I give credit to coach Chessher, they're doing some real good things on defense and we didn't respond to them too well, but finally we wore them down a little bit and things went our way."
While the Knights had trouble moving the ball in much of the first half, they didn't on their first possession. Heights took the opening kickoff and marched down to the end zone on eight plays. Shorts capped the scoring drive as he rolled out to his right and fired a 22-yard strike to Cameron Kish. The pass was deflected by a Tiger defender but Kish made the adjustment, catching the tipped ball in the end zone. Sophomore kicker Joe Phillips however, missed the point-after, leaving the Knights with just a 6-0 advantage.
The Tigers attempted to answer as quarterback Justin Hoermann found wide receiver Deontre Sheffield for a 23-yard gain that set up Stony Point at the Heights 17-yard line.
But on the following play, running back Cameron Bell fumbled and Knights linebacker Treyvon Hocutt recovered at the 14.
Heights, however, gave the ball right back four plays later as Shorts fumbled. Tigers defensive lineman Charlie Ezimako recovered and the 6-foot-2, 281-pounder rumbled 25 yards to the end zone to give Stony Point a 7-6 lead with 1:57 to go in the first quarter.
The score would remain the same for much of the half, mainly due to the strong defensive play of both squads.
After the game, Rogers praised his defense's effort and with good reason. After giving up four first downs to Stony Point on its opening drive, the Knights did not allow another in the first half.
Heights would tack on two more scores in the second half as big-play speedster D'Angelo Jackson took a reverse and scooted 43 yards to the end zone, and running back Joey Garcia sealed the win with a 3-yard TD run in the fourth.
With less than four minutes to play, Stony Point scored its only offensive touchdown of the game as Hoermann hooked up with Sheffield on a 55-yard touchdown pass.
Both teams begin the district portions of their schedules next Friday night. Stony Point opens District 15-5A play with Georgetown at 7:30 p.m. at Round Rock. The Knights host the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs in a District 13-5A showdown at 7:30 p.m. at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Contact Justin Boyd at email@example.com