By Kevin Posival and Raegan Stanley
Killeen Daily Herald
Forget that it is the first game of the season for the Ellison Eagles and the Killeen Kangaroos and the 29th time these two teams have met. Forget that Killeen leads the classic rivalry 15-12-1 going into tonight's 7:30 p.m. game at Leo Buckley Stadium. Forget that Ellison won last year's district contest 16-14, knocked Killeen out of the playoffs and advanced themselves into the postseason for the first time since 1998.
Forget all about that and remember the cliche - 'you can throw everything out the window for this game.'
"It's the oldest rivalry in the city," KHS head coach, Sam Jones said. "Heights/Killeen and Ellison/Shoemaker are big games, but the Killeen/Ellison game...is the game these guys are going to remember 10-20 years from now.
Ellison coach Bret Boyd said "It goes way back to when there were only two high schools. Up until last year, the games I was involved in didn't have big implications. It was for bragging rights. Only last year did it have playoff implications. This is the game that when you see 'em at the mall, you have the right to brag."
"It'll come down to emotion. [These guys] have played together since kindergarten. Some of them played together in junior high. The kids get up for this game," Jones said.
But, strategically, controlling emotion is not something that can be worked out on the practice field for the season's biggest game.
"We've settled into a regular routine now," said Boyd. "The kids are more mature. They know what to expect. They're acting normal now and will, I think, up until kickoff."
Jones sees the on-field match-up between his big offensive line and Ellison's intimidating front-seven to be a good one; one in which the Eagles have an experience advantage, he said.
"They have experience. We're big, but we're young," Jones said. "Hopefully, we'll grow up even during the game."
Jones is also eyeing Ellison's potent offense, namely Ivan Delgado and Eddie Frazier.
"We want to contain [Delgado], minimize what he's going to do," Jones said, "Those guys are going to make some big plays, but we just want to minimize those plays."
Boyd expressed similar thoughts.
"We both have offensive players, our quarterbacks, who are capable of making big plays. Their offensive line is big but we have the quickness. I'm ready to see how our defense will respond to their big guys...ready to see what they can do."
Killeen will look to its returning players to lead the younger ones through the emotional roller coaster on the field.
"They're going to be our leaders all year long because they've got that varsity experience. They know how excited everyone's going to be out there, hopefully they can show leadership and help keep everyone calm," Jones said.
[The players are] going to make mistakes because the emotions are so high. Whoever settles down first; makes the least amount of mistakes will win this game."
"This is a game where the kids get excited. The fans get really excited. This is what high school football is all about," said Boyd.