They left their marks and now leave their teams. With a renewed playoff history, Belton, Gatesville and Killeen coaches now have gaping holes at quarterback where David Ash, Jake Truss and Michael Cummings were mainstays.
Unlike the others, Cummings' knew little else but success in his three years as Killeen's starter but suffered the greatest disappointment of them all. Cummings, who's committed to Kansas, tore an ACL in the first quarter of a Week 8 loss to Stephenville, ending his high school career three-plus games before the end of the Roos season in the first round of 4A playoffs.
His last pass, a 90-yard touchdown throw, was symbolic of the kinds of big plays he brought to the Killeen offense. He threw for 5,237 yards and 45 touchdowns and ran for 2,321 yards and 33 touchdowns in his career and will be remembered as Killeen's most prolific passer.
Cummings was a district newcomer as a sophomore, when he marched the Roos four rounds deep into the playoffs - their first postseason appearance since 2004 and their longest playoff run since 1993 and was an all-district offensive MVP and all-state honorable mention as a junior.
University of Texas-bound Ash didn't lead the Tigers to the playoffs until his junior year, but the postseason was just a part of that memorable season.
Ash led the Tigers to their first winning season in six years, a District 12-5A co-championship and their first playoff win in eight years and first ever at the 5A level.
Like Cummings, Ash was an all-district newcomer as a sophomore and an offensive MVP and all-state honorable mention punter as a junior. He's thrown for 7,922 yards and 80 touchdowns in three seasons and has led Belton back-to-back postseason appearances.
Because of his size (5-foot-10), Truss considered himself more a golfer than a headlining quarterback. Golf he can do he led the Hornets to the 3A title as a sophomore but he's not bad at quarterback, either.
After seeing limited time on the field as a sophomore, Truss the son of Gatesville offensive coordinator David Truss threw for 5,162 yards and 50 touchdowns as a junior and senior and led the Hornets to the playoffs both seasons, their first postseasons since 2002. He completed 9-of-16 for 60 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as a sophomore playing behind starting quarterback Shane Clark.
The trio leaves behind lofty expectations for their successors but their teams will not be the only ones looking to replace quarterbacks next season.
Ellison loses Jacob Brank (72-138-1,155-4, 9 TDs) who was surprisingly District 12-5A's third-ranked quarterback despite Ellison's run-heavy, wing-T offense.
Florence and Salado replace two-year starting quarterbacks Doak Hensley (4,103 yards, 32 TDs, 42 INTs) and Cole Brentham (3,323 yards, 29 TDs, 24 INTs), respectively, and Lampasas has to replace Colton Perkins (258 yards, TD, 3 INTs).
Stalwart RBs leave empty backfields
While quarterbacks tend to get most of the attention, there are several area tailbacks who have left an equally indelible mark on their respective programs.
Jaquail Haskins, a two-year starter and three-year letterman at Killeen, experienced a career-year this season and led the Roos back to the postseason for the third straight year when Cummings missed the final three games of the season.
Breaking loose for a career-best 1,550 yards and 20 touchdowns on 188 carries, Haskins finished with 467 carries for 3,425 career rushing yards (7.33 yards per carry) and 37 touchdowns to put him near the top of the Roos record books.
Ellison's had its own mainstay in the backfield in David Cobb, who saw time behind his older brother Daniel (Texas Tech) as a sophomore, but really made his mark the last two seasons as the Eagles starter.
Finishing a mere 54 yards shy of 3,000 to go along with 35 touchdowns for his career, the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Cobb took a pounding yet missed very little time with injuries while averaging nearly 1,300 yards and 15 scores each of the last two years.
Cobb's partner-in-crime was fullback/linebacker Devon Hocutt, who combined for more than 600 yards in limited action on offense during the same span.
Just three seasons ago, the area saw Killeen with then-sophomore quarterback Michael Cummings lead the Kangaroos to the Division I-4A quarterfinals.
A week later, Copperas Cove reached the Div. II-5A semifinals before seeing its season come to an end. But that was 2008. Football season ended in the Killeen area two weeks ago in the first round. Cove, Killeen, Belton and Gatesville all lost their bi-district playoff matchups.
That occurrence hasn't happened since 2003. Only Belton and Harker Heights made the playoffs that year, with both falling one and done.
The area went 2-3 in the first round last year, though both Killeen and Belton lost in the next round.
Going into 2011, the candidates to make possible playoff runs are Cove and Lampasas.
The Bulldawgs are respected statewide and have runs to the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game (twice) since 2005. They also return arguably the area's most exciting player in Orlando Thomas.
Lampasas has the numbers in its favor as the state's biggest 3A school, and the Badgers also return a running back duo which ran for nearly 1,900 yards.
Shoemaker still seeking end to losing streak
Twenty-two and counting.
Back-to-back winless seasons and counting.
The first and second losses were bittersweet but every one since has gotten lost in the losing streak.
The first was a 42-14 loss at Temple on Nov. 7, 2008, but it was quickly forgotten when the Grey Wolves learned they had qualified for their first playoff appearance in school history thanks to a Belton win over Bryan.
The second was the ensuing playoff game when Shoemaker gave up an 18-9 halftime lead and lost to Tyler John Tyler 29-18.
Shoemaker never recovered in 2009 after returning starting quarterback Jameill Showers (Texas A&M) suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in a Week 0 scrimmage.
And they still haven't recovered two full seasons later.
Shoemaker lost a winnable, non-district game to Waco University, 27-21, after surrendering a 21-7 third-quarter lead and failing to score from the University 2-yard line on the final play.
They could've upset Bryan after the Vikings turned the ball over six times, but were instead blanked for the second time this season, 14-0, after gaining 97 total yards of offense, including minus-12 rushing yards.
Most disheartening, this season, was Shoemaker's 11-6 loss at Temple, which finished 1-9.
The Grey Wolves turned the ball over twice inside the Temple 20-yard line and lost their best chance to snap the streak where it started.
Lampasas 3A foray falls flat
This was supposed to be the Badgers' year. They made the 2009 playoffs, dropped to 3A and were billed as a team to make a deep playoff run. That last part didn't happen Lampasas went into district play 4-1 but won only one 25-3A game to finish fifth overall.
There is reason for optimism surrounding the Badgers however, as the offense returns plenty of talent. Running backs Secody Howard and Justin Maldonado are both juniors and combined for nearly 1,900 yards rushing to go with 21 touchdowns.
Howard (1,031 yards) was the district's leading rusher and Maldonado (864) finished fourth.
Taking over at quarterback is fellow junior Brandon Scott, an all-district pick at safety who gives the Badgers an additional running threat in their slot-T offense.
But Lampasas' biggest asset moving forward is the increased expectations.
Their perceived success was billed through preseason polls and publications.
Now, the program is accepting the burden to perform and again reaching the playoffs.