By Dick Atkinson
Special to the Herald
The Harker Heights Knights are aiming for their fourth consecutive CenTex district championship when they kick off their season Tuesday at Killeen Bowlerama against Copperas Cove.
Coach Garry McNiesh returns his entire starting lineup and still has just one senior among his top-eight bowlers.
Javon Stanford is a 4-year starter and will anchor one of the top teams in the state.
Adarius Stanford, Tim Rackley, Darrius Drew and Ryan Everett all should average more than 200 this season and look to match last year's undefeated record.
The Knights advanced to the state Sweet 16 a year ago before being upset by San Antonio Marshall. Coach McNiesh thinks a state championship is not out of reach for his Knights.
Copperas Cove lost the district's top average bowler, Louis Barragan (233), to graduation, but return the remainder of their team who finished second to Heights last season.
The Dawgs return Tyler Combs, Cedric Mayberry, Jason Bardales and Connor Chappell and have four newcomers in Sabastian Baxter, William Foster, Brett Palumbo and Robert Bigford who will provide plenty of offensive punch and depth.
Ellison lost its top bowler, Drake Revels, who transferred to Germany, but return most of their strong lineup from a year ago.
The Eagles finished third in district last season, but won the Region V championship and advanced to the state tournament. Quentin Hewitt, Denzell Amos, Mark Castro, Kevan Wheatley and David Hieronimczak had an average north of 180 last season.
Look for a much improved Shoemaker Grey Wolves team this year. Michael Dunem will lead the Grey Wolves, but will have help from returning starters James Franklin, Brandon Shirley and Josh Frishman.
They also feature promising Freshmen who will give the Grey Wolves much needed depth they lacked last season.
Killeen head coach Steve Salak thinks his Roos may be the dark horse. The Roos return Seth Rockwell and Anthony Morales along with two other lettermen and should be much improved this year.
The district welcomes Memorial Christian Academy as it's newest member. Coach Jackie Shiller admits this season will probably be a learning experience for his Warriors, but is excited to be competing against some of the top bowlers in the state.
The Warriors are lean on experience, fielding a roster of five Freshmen and two Sophomores who will be competing interscholastically for the first time. Coach Shiller expects Tyler Kovac, Matthew Carswell and Robert Cushard to lead the way.
O'Rourke to lead Lady Knights
The girls race figures to be the most evenly matched in the 10-year history of the club which should make for a very interesting season.
The Lady Knights are coming off back-to-back district titles and an Elite Eight appearance at the state tournament and will return one of the area's top bowlers in Shelby O'Rourke.
They also return Sylvia Torres and Lorissa Carns and will feature promising newcomers Abby Golding, Ariana Charles and Rosalinda Williams. Coach McNiesh feels his Lady Knights will be competitive again this year.
To say the Ellison Lady Eagles will be rebuilding this season is an understatement.
Coming off their magical run to a state championship last season, the Lady Eagles graduated their entire roster, including state singles champion Cindy Gill, now bowling for West Texas A&M and Devin Revels, who is competing for Morgan State in Baltimore.
Coach Fikes expects his Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs to be in the hunt for it's first district title. Cove returns Brittney Wehmeier, Tanya Marr and Lily Ayala and feature two strong Freshmen in Stephani Brown and Lucy Olalde.
The Lady Grey Wolves return three strong starters from last year's squad that made it to the state Elite Eight last season. Katarina Elrod, Georgcia Lowe and Briana Shannon should lead Shoemaker into contention for a district title and will be helped by five newcomers.
Killeen's Lady Roos return top scorer Alexis Holmes and most of last year's starting lineup and will be much improved.
Like his boy's team, Memorial Christian Academy coach Jackie Shiller will field a varsity girl's team of all underclassmen competing for the first time. Julia Castaneda and JaShondra Pouncy should lead the Lady Warriors.
The season will start Monday, Dec. 6 with Ellison hosting Killeen at Hallmark Lanes. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Memorial Christian will host Shoemaker at Hallmark Lanes while Copperas Cove visits Harker Heights at Killeen Bowlerama. All matches start at 4:30 p.m.
The district season will end on Feb. 22 and the top-three boys and girls teams will advance to the regional tournament on March 6 at a site to be announced.