The day Mark Humble accepted the position, he began running out of time.
Less than a month ago, Humble was named Harker Heights head football coach, replacing Jerry Edwards, who departed after 11 seasons overseeing the Knights to assume the same role at Colleyville Heritage.
Although it was an ideal scenario for the Killeen product to return home, Humble — a member of the Kangaroos’ state championship team in 1991 — immediately encountered an obstacle.
With just weeks remaining before school released for the summer, Humble was unsure if it would be possible to create and execute an entire spring schedule.
“I came into this thinking we weren’t going to be able to have spring ball,” he said. “It was just so huge and important, though, and thank goodness for our administrative support and (Killeen ISD executive director for athletics) Micah Wells. I called him and said that I thought we could pull off spring ball and asked what he thought.
“He said, ‘Coach, if you think you can do it, go and get it done.’”
Humble and his staff capitalized on the rushed opportunity, and several weeks of workouts culminated Tuesday with the program’s spring game.
A combination of a typical practice and a game, the event allowed Humble to further assess his newly acquired talent before the summer months separate players and coaches from the sport.
While the series of practices allowed everyone involved to become more familiar with the schemes, formations and philosophies Humble is installing, they were critical for other reasons as well.
“The No. 1 thing was to start building those relationships,” Humble said. “The only way we are ever going to be any good is if these kids know we as coaches have their best interests at heart. They need to know we want the best for them not just athletically but also socially and academically.
“They have to know we will always be there for them, and that time we spend together in spring practices and bonding is far more important than any of the Xs and Os.”
The Knights are coming off their best season in decades.
On the heels of earning the District 12-6A title, Harker Heights won its first playoff game since 2002, defeating Mansfield 26-2 before advancing to the Region II final, where they suffered a 60-24 loss to eventual state champion DeSoto.
Along with ending an era with Edwards, the defeat also concluded the high school careers of multiple players, including a quartet of NCAA Division I commits in running back Re’Shaun Sanford (Houston), offensive linemen Jaydon Chatman (Texas) and Etueni Ropati (Texas-San Antonio) and cornerback Deaubry Hood (Arkansas State).
While the departures are significant, plenty of talent remains on the roster, highlighted by all-district defensive newcomer of the year Kaden Butler and first-team selections Kabriel Anderson-Dale, an outside linebacker, quarterback Dylan Plake, receiver Tyler Johnson and center Jaden Kaaloa.
Additionally, guard Aaron Gomez, who landed on the second team, will be among 44 seniors within the Knights’ program.
With spring practices complete, Harker Heights turns its collective attention toward summer conditioning and eventually two-a-days in the fall, and while the team’s potential will not be revealed until next season, Humble is confident the Knights will exceed expectations.
“I have been really impressed by the kids,” he said. “They have been a joy to be around, because they are super hungry and super coachable. I can’t brag on the coaches and kids enough. They are the ones who made my transition easy.
“We’re ahead of the curve for where I thought we’d be at this point, and all the credit goes to the kids. Every day, they’ve been getting better and better.”
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