By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Apparently, the bible of Texas high school football doesn't have much faith in any of the four Killeen Independent School District programs.
Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine, which was released in stores this week, picked all four KISD football teams to miss the playoffs, a feat that hasn't happened since the split from to four schools in 2000.
Of course, Killeen head coach Sam Jones, for one, doesn't put much stock in preseason rankings or "expected" finishes.
"We talk about (where we're picked) every year, and sometimes it's good to be picked up high and you have a lot to play for, but it's also just a pick," Jones said.
"It's not where you start, it's where you finish. Hopefully that'll give us motivation to see if we can't prove them wrong."
According to the magazine, Waco Midway - which moved up with Killeen from 8-4A during realignment - will end the year as District 8-5A champions, relegating the defending 12-5A champion Copperas Cove Bulldawgs to runner-up status.
Behind them, DCTF has Belton and Temple rounding out the top four playoff seeds, leaving all four KISD programs out in the cold.
"I don't think that will happen - it could because it's a great district, there's no doubt about it - but the game is played on the field," Jones said. "We're just going to play it out and see how it goes."
Despite its potential silver-medal status in 8-5A, the magazine also picked Copperas Cove as one of it's five potential dark horses for the state title.
Harker Heights, which has been on the verge of playoff contention each of the last two years, was slated to finish sixth, ahead of Shoemaker - which snapped a 31-game losing streak in the regular season finale against Ellison last season - and the Eagles, which finished 0-10 for on the second time in it's existence.
The UIL's latest biannual realignment in February shook things up around the state, moving several perennial playoffs teams in 4A up to 5A, including five-time defending state champion Lake Travis.
Among them was Killeen, which will take its four-year playoff streak into the newly formed District 8-5A, a true Central Texas district that also includes fellow KISD programs Ellison, Harker Heights and Shoemaker, along with Belton, Copperas Cove, Temple and Waco Midway.
"Since we're moving up, I think that's what they're going on, and since we haven't played Belton, Temple and Cove in the last (several) years, ... I guess they're giving them the edge because they've been playing 5A," Jones said.
"But again, it's not where you start it's where you finish, and that's how we're going to approach it."
For the second year in a row, a pair of local University of Texas commits were named to the Super Team offense, which is highlighted by 6-foot-6 Belton tight end Durham Smythe and 6-5, 320-pound Harker Heights offensive lineman Darius James.
Smythe is a also preseason Class 5A all-state selection, while Shoemaker tailback Johnny Jefferson is the district's preseason offensive MVP and Cove linebacker Darius McClinton is the preseason defensive MVP.
Florence senior Kaleb Hardy is listed as one of the state's top 30 quarterbacks and one of just five from below 3A.
Killeen 6-2 senior Akeem Harrison joined Smythe among the state's top 10 tight end prospects while James and fellow Knights senior linebacker Naashon Hughes, also a Longhorn-commit, were picked among the best at their respective positions.
Jefferson, who saw time out of the wildcat last season, was one of the state's top 10 athletes.