By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
Now, when Killeen coach Sam Jones talks about the importance of digging deep and playing inspired football when all appears lost, he won't have to make up some elaborate story.
The Kangaroos, down by 10 points with less than 8 minutes left in the game, did all of the above and rallied for a 27-24 homecoming win over Austin McCallum on Thursday night, sending the hosts into their bye week in a very good mood.
"This type of win is great for the kids," Jones said. "We always talk about never giving up and playing hard for all four quarters.
"Now, if we ever need that type of motivation, the kids can look back at this game and get it."
McCallum (3-2) held a 24-14 lead with 8:03 left, thanks in large part to quarterback Lucious Henderson, who rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
But Roo quarterback Brian Wood, who was dinged up with a hard hit in the first half, stepped up and came up with the big plays down the stretch.
With 7:47 left on the clock, Wood used a nice play-action fake and found a wide-open Edward Cody with a 71-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit to 24-21 following a Donald MacWillie extra point.
"Edward is Mr. Dependable for us," Jones said. "They (McCallum) really crowded the line of scrimmage, anticipating a run and with a nice play-action, they couldn't cover everyone on the deep pattern and Brian found the open guy."
But McCallum still had the ball and Henderson on their side, but the junior standout threw a costly interception to Latitus Reason near midfield with 6:04 left, giving the Roos a golden opportunity.
The slowed Roo quarterback gained 11 yards on three carries before breaking free on a 42-yard scamper to the end zone with 4:13 left off a key block from wide receiver Steven Smith, giving the Roos a 27-24 lead after a blocked PAT. He finished with 171 rushing yards and 194 passing yards and three total TDs.
"This win is a big momentum boost for our ballclub," Wood said. "My hip hurt pretty bad, but Coach Jones reminded me that I had two weeks to feel better so I tried to suck it up and play through it."
McCallum, who amassed 308 total yards of offense, had the ball and 4:13 left to try and win the game, but the Killeen defense tightened up and stuffed the Knights near midfield.
"The 'D' really came through late for us," Wood said. "I told them (trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter) that if you stop them, we'll win this game."
Both teams gave the impression that the game was going to turn into a track meet.
Killeen jumped out to the early lead following a six-play, 62-yard drive, which was capped off when Wood hit a wide open Smith with a 38-yard touchdown strike, giving the Roos a 7-0 lead following a Donald MacWillie extra point.
McCallum bounced back and marched 56 yards on seven plays and tied the game with a 14-yard TD run by quarterback Lucious Henderson. Following a Paul Tearson extra point, it was 7-7 less than four minutes into the contest.
But, surprisingly, no other points would be scored in the first half. Killeen suffered from poor field position and despite racking up 215 yards of total offense, the Roos were held scoreless.
As for McCallum, all the Knights could muster were two punts, a Roo interception by Sylvester Young and a near disasterous final play of the half, when a launched snap on a punt turned into a pass competion for a loss of 26 yards deep in Killeen territory as the gun sounded.
The Knights were held in check by the Roo defense as they racked up 110 yards of total offense.
Wood racked up 198 yards of offense in the first half, 99 rushing and 99 receiving. Smith had three completions for 92 yards and a touchdown.
After a 39-yard field goal by Paul Tearson made it 10-7, Killeen answered with a four-play, 55-yard scoring drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown run by Andrew Gumbs, who plowed over several Knight defenders along the way.
But McCallum would respond when Henderson carried a Roo defender for a 5-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to give the Knights a 17-14 lead.
Following a McCallum interception by Patrick Canul, Henderson again scored five plays later, this time from a yard out, to make it 24-14 late in the third quarter.
Killeen fumbled on its possession and McCallum's opportunity to blow the game open was wiped out when a 47-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left, giving the Roos new life.
"We're in a tough district and we're going to have games like this all year long," Jones said. "A win like this heading into the bye week is a good moral boost for the guys and it'll keep their spirits up until the district opener."
The Roos will have their bye week before opening District 16-4A play at Waco ISD Stadium against University on Oct. 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org