ROUND ROCK — Neil Searcy feels Killeen was playing against two teams.
The Kangaroos opened their season Thursday, traveling to face Round Rock Cedar Ridge at Dragon Stadium, where the Raiders rose to the occasion, exploding for 21 points in the first quarter en route to a 45-14 victory.
While Cedar Ridge earned the victory, it received some help.
Killeen accumulated 17 penalties, committed a pair of turnovers and produced just eight first downs, and following the contest, Killeen’s head coach admitted the showing was unacceptable.
“Anything ugly that could have happened against us tonight did happen,” Searcy said. “Cedar Ridge is a good team, and I’m not trying to take anything away from them, but we did everything in our power to help them and not help ourselves.
“You can’t beat good football teams like that.”
Thanks in part to 11 penalties, Killeen was forced to punt away five of its six first-half possessions, and the result was costly as the Raiders constructed a 23-point advantage, 29-6, by halftime.
After falling into a 7-0 hole, it did not take long for the Kangaroos to respond, needing just 35 seconds to reach the end zone as a 72-yard pass from sophomore Roderick Norman to De’Van’Te Johnson set up Killeen’s first points of the season on a 6-yard pass from Norman to Cade Searcy.
The extra point was missed on the heels of a delay-of-game penalty and bobbled snap, and Cedar Ridge took advantage, needing just three plays to cover 41 yards for a score before a successful 2-point conversion dropped the Kangaroos into a nine-point deficit, 15-6, with 3 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
And the score held for more than half an hour thanks to a lightning delay that emptied the stadium and halted action for 40 minutes.
“I thought that was going to give us a chance to reset,” Searcy said. “We were making mistakes we hadn’t made all throughout practice.
“But tonight, it was like we forgot everything we learned over the last few weeks.”
Once play resumed, Killeen’s drive ended with a blocked punt, and one snap later, the Raiders’ lead swelled to 21-6 following a 31-yard touchdown pass from Aidan Liston to Matthew Brooks with 76
seconds remaining in the first period.
The Kangaroos could not generate any momentum in response, sandwiching a pair of punts around the Raiders’ lengthy scoring drive lasting 4:30 that ended with a successful 2-point conversion for the final points of the half.
Trailing 32-6 midway through the third quarter, junior Warren Fleming’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown pulled Killeen within 20 points, 32-12, after the extra point attempt was no good.
The Kangaroos recorded their final points two minutes later, when Jacobia Thomas returned a blocked extra point attempt for two points.
While disappointing, the outcome is still the first step toward potentially returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 – the only postseason appearance under Searcy, who began in 2015.
And this year, the Kangaroos are looking to end a trend.
Entering the season opener, Killeen amassed a combined record of 6-12 against nondistrict competition throughout the previous six years, producing more than one victory just once, and it occurred under unusual circumstances.
In 2017, the Kangaroos suffered 42-21 loss to Round Rock Stony Point to start the season, but the Tigers were later forced to forfeit the contest, giving Killeen the victory. The Kangaroos also beat Austin McNeil 34-14 to split its nondistrict schedule.
Since, Killeen sandwiched a pair of 1-1 showings around an 0-2 nondistrict run in 2019, but the Kangaroos can enter District 12-6A play with a winning record by being successful during the upcoming weeks.
Although nondistrict records do not affect playoff possibilities, outcomes are important, according to Searcy.
“Getting a win can erase a lot of different things,” Neil Searcy said. “It makes practices the following week so much easier.”
Killeen travels to face Pflugerville Hendrickson on Thursday before playing Waco on the road Sept. 9.
History indicates the next step will not be easy, though.
The Hawks were not challenged in last season’s encounter with the Kangaroos, scoring 17 unanswered points en route to a 24-17 victory, but graduation has rearranged Hendrickson’s roster, leaving a mere six starters remaining.
Now, it is up to Killeen to take advantage of the situation.
“We are a much better football team than we showed tonight,” Neil Searcy said, “and I look forward to getting another opportunity next week to prove it.”