By Alex Byington
and Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Belton coach Rodney Southern knew his defense was going to take a hit this year, especially along a completely new front line that's without all four of last season's starters - District 12-5A defensive MVP Zac Sakaria, Tim Bower, Will Emerick and Charleston Lewis.
But following a 36-27 loss to No. 2-ranked Abilene, widely considered among the top five in the country, it's clear the rebuilt line could be a severe weakness for the defending district champion Tigers.
Against a loaded Eagles backfield that features Oklahoma State-commit Herschel Sims and his quarterback cousin Ronnell Sims, the Belton run-defense was exposed, over and over again. With Herschel Sims leading the way with 186 yards on 17 carries, Abilene racked up 374 net yards on the ground on 36 run plays for an average gain of 10.4 yards per attempt.
That number is a tad skewed thanks to two extremely long runs - one for 60 yards and the other a 53 yard touchdown - but it nevertheless reveals the Tigers' No. 1 weakness. The other glaring run statistic that could prove the most troublesome was the 31 of 36 carries that went for positive yardage, including 18 of at least 8 yards or more.
Bulldawgs get big-game training
For a good number of Copperas Cove Bulldawgs playing their first varsity game Friday, they may have received the best on-the-job training they could have asked for.
One of the reasons Cove head coach Jack Welch wanted to play Southlake Carroll was to prepare his team for bigger games - district and playoff - later this season. The Dawgs, who have made four trips to at least the state quarterfinals in the last five years, have played in big games, but many, if not all, of the players that led Cove to its 35-14 win Friday weren't around then.
"That game was exciting," said Cove quarterback Orlando Thomas, who led the Dawgs in rushing and accounted for two scores.
There was a near-sellout at Bulldawg Stadium, with the Dragon fans lining the visiting seats in green. In addition to a number of reporters - both newspaper and television - each team had a radio broadcast and multiple cameras on its sidelines. Carroll, a seven-time state champion, is arguably the most recognizable team in Texas.
"It's Southlake Carroll," running back William Randolph said. "It's Southlake Carroll. That's enough to say about that."
Killeen's Flemming, Ellison's Hocutt shine
Killeen senior receiver Cameron Flemming had five receptions for 99 yards, with a 12-yard touchdown catch, helping Killeen beat rival Ellison 28-25 Friday night at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Ellison senior fullback Devon Hocutt, who's committed to Texas Tech as a linebacker, proved a load almost too much for the Killeen defense to stop. Hocutt carried 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns as Ellison's leading rusher.
David Cobb, who ran for more than 1,300 yards last season, including 290 against Killeen, had 12 carries for 89 yards but had just four carries for 10 yards in the first half.
Roos quarterback Michael Cummings said Killeen's receivers, an unknown coming into the season, even exceeded his expectations. Da'Juan Sylvester, who had three catches for 55 yards, was Killeen's No. 3 receiver last season and was the only one returning that had caught a pass in a varsity game.
Knights focused on reducing turnovers
Before the season, second-year Harker Heights coach Mike Mullins made it clear one of the team's missions was to reduce its turnover margin from the minus-21 mark it had last season.
Although defense helped carry them to a 24-14 season-opening win over Georgetown on Saturday, the Knights (1-0) still have a long way to go in the turnover department - Heights turned it over six times compared to just four by the Eagles.
The biggest discrepancy came on fourth-down tries as the Knights were denied on three of their six fourth-and-short conversion tries, resulting in turnovers on downs. Regarding actual turnovers, Heights lost only two (a fumble and interception by first-year starting quarterback C.J. Rodriguez), while a fumble by tailback Deandre Jones was recovered.
Shoemaker loses seven turnovers in loss
The Grey Wolves lost four fumbles and threw three interceptions in their 42-7 loss to San Angelo Central on Friday night.
"Well, all the mistakes are correctable," said Shoemaker coach Ken Gray. "We've got to protect the ball better than what we did. That's something we worked on (Saturday) and that's something we'll work on again on Monday.
"And then the interceptions were miscommunication ones more than anything."
Central also returned a punt for a score.
Phelan Curry ran for the Grey Wolves' only touchdown.
By the numbers
3 - number of interceptions thrown by Ellison quarterback Terron Burch in the Eagles' 28-25 loss to rival Killeen.
4 - number of different receivers Killeen quarterback Michael Cummings completed passes to in the Roos win.
1.5 - number of yards per carry the aggressive Knights defense held Georgetown, limiting the Eagles to just 47 yards on 30 carries - though much of the lost yardage came courtesy of seven sacks for a combined loss of 55 yards.
31 - Ash's Belton record for completions in a game, breaking his own record of 30 set in last year's bi-district win last year against Mesquite Horn.
Cedar Park at Ellison, Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium - Cedar Park racked up more than 350 total yards in its season-opening win against Round Rock Westwood, including 230 passing yards.
Ellison allowed Killeen, which had just one returning starting receiver, 208 passing yards in the Eagles' loss.
Killeen at Shoemaker, Saturday at Leo Buckley Stadium - After beating Ellison for the first time since 2008, the Kangaroos look for win No. 2 against Shoemaker in the first of four Saturday games at Buckley this season. The Grey Wolves are looking for their first win since 2008 - a stretch of 13 straight losses.
Harker Heights at Cedar Park Vista Ridge, Friday - Fresh off a 24-14 ransacking of Georgetown, which only had one victory last season, the Knights take on another previous 1-9 squad in 4A Cedar Park Vista Ridge.
Belton at Austin High, Friday at House Park- Following a close loss to No. 2-ranked Abilene, the defending District 12-5A co-champion Tigers are still looking for their first win of the young season.
Staff writer Angel Verdejo contributed to this report.