By James Harper
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - School's out for the summer, but plenty of student-athletes are still trying to learn chemistry, while also practicing the alphabet - mainly X's and O's.
The 7-on-7 summer leagues are in full swing and on Tuesday the Ellison and Shoemaker football teams traveled a few miles to Harker Heights, where the three teams squared off in heavy winds that, at times, caused the pigskin to act like a knuckleball.
Shoemaker beat Heights 12-0 behind the throwing arm of sophomore quarterback Desmond Jefferson. Jefferson, who is pegged to be the junior varsity signal-caller, threw two touchdowns and is using the playing time to his advantage.
On consecutive drives Jefferson hit two different receivers in stride as his ball spiraled through the strong wind.
"This helps us know the plays so we can do better during the season," Jefferson said. "It's not difficult (throwing with wind), you just have to time the run and throw it in front so it's right on target and the receiver can catch the ball."
In Game 2, the Wolves faced Ellison. Junior quarterback Ziere Banner tossed two scores and led Shoemaker to a 14-0 victory, but the wins and losses weren't Banner's ultimate goal.
"We come out here and practice - what we want to do is build chemistry," Banner said.
Banner talked about the hours of conditioning his team undergoes in order to prepare for 7-on-7 competition. He said they practice their playbook, but "Mostly we run."
Ellison put a tally in the win column against the Wolves, 20-14. The first score of the game was also the best play of the day.
Junior quarterback Trenton Jones threw the first of his two scores on a 45-yard strike to wideout Da'Jur Jameson, who made a spectacular one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone.
Jones' focus wasn't on the degree of difficulty of the catch, it was on improvement and chemistry.
"Chemistry with receivers. I try to do everything I can to make it like a game situation for the upcoming season," he said.
The Eagles followed the win with a 6-6 tie against the Knights. Jones found Jameson for the second time and the second score was almost as nice as their first connection. Jones zipped the ball between three defenders so fast that wind had little opportunity to divert it from its path.
"(The wind) was tough, but you're gonna be throwing in the wind during games anyway so you might as well get used to it," Jones said. "Besides, the wind shouldn't matter (because) you should always have that zip on the ball."
Banner's search for chemistry may have come to an end against Heights. He threw six touchdowns to six different receivers as Shoemaker bombed the Knights 40-0. His spirals went long, medium and short, and not one seemed to be affected by the gusts.
His explanation for his immunity was simple.
"(I) practice the plays with the receivers as much as I can and I put a lot into my throws," Banner said.
It seemed none of the players saw the wind as a problem. According to Knights junior receiver Tony Barnes, it all comes down to focus and keeping your mind right.
"Just catch the ball is all I do," he said. "Whether it's raining, snowing or whatever it's doing, you got to be able to catch the ball."
Shoemaker 12, Harker Heights 0
Shoemaker 14, Ellison 0
Ellison 20, Shoemaker 14
Ellison 6, Harker Heights 6, tie
Shoemaker 40, Harker Heights 0