By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Whether it was the season-high nine turnovers, or the encroaching of Hurricane Ike, there were several different factors that could have contributed to Ellison's embarrassing 51-14 loss to Round Rock last season.
A year removed, and no torrential wind and rain approaching from the Gulf Coast, the Eagles are being given another crack at the Dragons, and they aren't taking it for granted.
"This is God's way of giving us a second chance to do things right, so that's what we're going to do," said senior defensive back Prezel Hardy, who surrendered one of the costly turnovers. "We're going to come to their home and hopefully do everything right that we didn't do last year."
Saddled with a complete overhaul of its game week thanks to the impending arrival of Ike, Ellison was forced to deal as what should have been a Friday night game at Leo Buckley Stadium was shifted to Dragon Stadium on Thursday.
"We felt like we were improving, and then in the Round Rock game, we took several steps back," said second-year Eagles coach Buddy McBryde. "Last year we had some distractions because of the hurricane, and we didn't change the game (time and location) until Wednesday (of that week)."
But the Eagles aren't making excuses, not with a chance to correct what the team hopes was just a fluke.
Under eerily similar circumstances, the Eagles enter Week 2 undefeated at 2-0 with dominating victories over Killeen and Del Valle, a fact that some attributed to a feeling of overconfidence on their part.
"We thought we were a good team; we thought we had won something and then it took a real good team like Round Rock to knock us back down to our level and realize we hadn't won anything because we hadn't played any hardcore teams," Hardy said. "So we just weren't prepared."
But this season, Ellison is more focused on what's at hand, especially given the debacle of last season.
The Round Rock rout started early when current Texas Tech safety Daniel Cobb coughed up the opening kickoff to set what was the first of four first-quarter scores as, the Dragons mounted a 24-0 advantage thanks to two fumbles and two interceptions – all which led to points for the Dragons.
Things continued to get worse as Round Rock stretched its lead to 38-7 by halftime.
"Last year, it just seemed like the more we tried to protect it, the more it came out," McBryde said.
This week, the Eagles introduced a new practice routine specifically dedicated to helping stop fumbles with a drill where players were forced to protect two balls on a five-yard run while defenders attempted to strip them.
"We put emphasis ball protection from the first day that we start all the way through (the season)," McBryde said.
"It's nothing new, nothing that any other coach wouldn't tell their athletes – hold onto the ball, plain and simple," Hardy said. "If you lose the ball, you're coming out of the game – that's all he tells us, that's all we need to hear."
Offensively, the "running" Eagles are churning on all cylinders in the second season under the wing-T, thanks to the powerful running of junior David Cobb and the shiftiness of speedsters Devonte Cloud and Eric West.
Averaging more than six yards per carry, Ellison has been nearly unstoppable on the ground, totalling 475 yards in what amounts to a game-and-a-half.
But with seven fumbles against rival Killeen in the season opener, the Eagles' troubles again rely on whether or not they can keep the ball off the turf.
McBryde, though, believes his team will make the most of their second chance.
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or at (254) 501-7566.