By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
Brownwood had the momentum. The Lions had the Killeen Kangaroos pinned on their own 25-yard line, facing a third-and-12 with the Roos clinging to an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But Columbus Givens had the ball.
The senior quarterback used his athletic ability and elusiveness to get the Roos out of danger with a 66-yard run, helping the Roos hang on for a 42-28 win over visiting Brownwood on Friday night before a frenzied homecoming crowd at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Givens finished the night with 239 yards and two touchdowns and 15 economic carries to give the Roos (5-2, 2-0 in district) a leg up on the District 16-4A standings.
"We respect everyone we face out there, but we fear nobody," Givens said of the Lions (2-5, 0-2). "It was a real important game as far as district goes.
"Every game the rest of the way will be the biggest game of the year."
The Roos finished another impressive night with 422 yards of offense on the ground as Jamel Jackson (19-112, two touchdowns) and Donald Fulbright (12-67, one TD) each added to Killeen's success.
"We came in here really wanting to throw the ball a little more than we did tonight," KHS coach Sam Jones said. "But we were having success on the ground. Our offensive line was very strong and we picked up key blocks along the way from our receivers as well. It was a great effort from everyone tonight."
Following Givens' big run, the Roos built a 35-20 lead when Jackson capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
After a strong defensive stand, the Roos iced the game when Givens avoided seven different Lion tacklers en route to an 83-yard TD.
"He's the type of player that comes into a coach's life once in a lifetime," Jones said. "But like I said before, if the O-line doesn't pick up their blocks and the wide receivers don't block downfield, these big plays don't happen."
Killeen led by as many as 21 early in the game, but the Lions showed why they were a preseason district favorite, staying in the game despite three first-half turnovers.
Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Lee threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but the Roo defense made the big plays when they needed to.
"We knew they were a big team, so we needed to beat them with our speed," KHS linebacker and homecoming king Quintin Sterling said. "Between winning this game and being named 'Mr. Roo?' No question ... the game."
Killeen came out hotter than a firecracker, turning terrible field position into a six-play, 94-yard touchdown drive, culminating with a 42-yard TD run by Givens. The senior quarterback ran up the middle, cut left and found daylight to the end zone.
Following a three-and-out by the Roos defense, Killeen dusted off a play from the sandlot as Juaquin Iglesias took a reverse lateral pitch from Givens, ran right and found a wide-open Terrance Hatcher for a 52-yard touchdown pass, making it 13-0 following a missed extra point.
After a Brownwood fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the ball back to the Roos on Brownwood's 29-yard line, the Lions defense clamped down and held the hosts on downs.
From there, Brownwood took that momentum and marched down the field for a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Lee showed off his impressive arm with a 38-yard TD pass to Bart Johnson, who dove into the corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 13-7 late in the first quarter.
Again pushed back to their own 20, the Roos enjoyed the spacious surroundings and ate up 6 minutes of the clock with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive, which ended with a 3-yard TD run by Donald Fulbright.
Another Brownwood turnover gave Killeen excellent field position, but again, the Lions held, forcing a Givens punt.
But a Darden fumble near the goal line was recovered by Reggie Bonner on the Lions' 2 and one play later, Jamel Jackson plowed into the end zone for a 28-7 Roo advantage following a successful 2-point pass from Givens to J.T. Jones.
But the big-play capabilities of the Lions continued as the guests quickly marched down the field in the final 3 minutes. Lee again showed poise in the pocket and hit Darden with a 34-yard TD pass with 46 seconds left in the half to cut the lead in half.
"We talked about the Austin McCallum game where we led after the first half, but came out flat," Jones said. "We wanted to make sure that didn't happen again."
Killeen had 35 plays in the first half to Brownwood's 18 and outgained the Lions 254-170.
The Roos will return to action Friday night at Lampasas, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org