By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
Thanks to a couple of rather unlikely wins, the Killeen Kangaroos are right back in the race for another District 16-4A title.
The four-team logjam atop the district standings will be thinned out considerably tonight as the Killeen Kangaroos (5-3, 2-1 in district) play at Hewitt Midway (5-3, 2-1), beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, at Leo Buckley Stadium, the 2-1 Ellison Eagles will host 2-1 Waco University, so coach Sam Jones knows the destiny of the Roos is in their own hands.
"We're right were we need to be," Jones said. "If we can get our rhythm back on offense, I feel that we have the defense that can slow this team down."
It will take an impressive from the Roos' defense, considering the fact that the Panthers have scored 117 points in three district contests, a whopping 39 points-per-game average.
"All of their skill position players are back from last year and I feel their offensive success comes from their experience," Jones said. "They're a talented offensive group and our defense will have their hands full."
Sparking the Panther offense is quarterback Wesley Sauls, who has racked up 931 passing yards on 74-of-129 passing with 10 touchdowns. His favorite targets include area receiving leader Garfield Hicks, who has 49 receptions for 835 yards and nine touchdowns. Travis Beaird (31-348) and Ross Young (12-150-1) provide multiple options for the Panther QB.
"We need to get in the backfield and put pressure on the quarterback," defensive coordinator Neil Searcy said. "Make him dance around back there and not have the time to scan the field."
On the ground, Sauls is the main Panther threat with 398 yards and seven touchdowns on 68 carries. Jimell Trumbach (80-351-5) and Justin Cavasos (36-242-3) bring depth to their running game.
The key to the Roos' success is finding success with the ball in their hands, or, even more importantly, keeping the ball in their hands. Killeen, which has scored just 52 points in their three district games, has 24 fumbles (nine lost) this season, five (three lost) coming last week in the first half against Lampasas.
"Looking at the films, it's coming down to poor execution and a lack of concentration," Jones said. "We need to do a better job on the fundamentals, wrapping up the ball, securing the ball, keeping our focus out there."
On the bright side, Killeen may have found a workhorse running back in the form of linebacker Andrew Gumbs, who rushed for 89 impressive yards on nine carries, including a 45-yard touchdown in last week's 24-13 win over the Badgers.
"We need to get our swagger back out there and control our offense," Jones said. "We're still in Phase 2 of our season and the ability to make it to Phase 3 (the playoffs) is right in front of us."
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org