It is an extremely unusual situation, and Neil Searcy is embracing it.
Across the state, coaches, players and fans alike are anxiously awaiting the start of the high school football season, envisioning their team competing under the fabled Friday night lights.
Killeen, however, must wait another month for the experience.
Beginning tonight against Round Rock Cedar Ridge, the Kangaroos will play each of their first three games on a Thursday. Furthermore, the trio of nondistrict contests will all be on the road.
Although it will be different, Killeen’s head coach believes the schedule has benefits.
“We are going to get to learn how to play on the road,” Searcy said, “and we will learn about all the adversity that comes along with it.
“I just look at it as an opportunity to grow my team by putting them in situations they normally wouldn’t be in.”
Set to kickoff at 7 p.m. at Dragon Stadium, the Kangaroos, who have not reached the playoffs since 2016, enter the game looking to improve on last season, when they produced a 3-6 record and suffered through a pair of three-game losing streaks.
Conversely, the Raiders are a model of consistency, capturing eight consecutive playoff berths, including last year, when they closed the regular season with four wins before falling to eventual Class 6A, Division II state champion Austin Westlake in the first round.
Regardless of who, when or where it plays, Killeen’s ultimate goal is to be competing in the postseason again by winning during the District 12-6A schedule.
“Normally,” Searcy said, “teams don’t play three straight games on the road and on a Thursday, but we have a big district game against Bryan on a Thursday.
“So, maybe if we can have some success on these Thursday nights, it will benefit us then.”
COPPERAS COVE AT ROUND ROCK STONY POINT
The Bulldawgs have only won twice since Oct. 4, 2019, and their nine defeats last season were determined by at least 12 points apiece. But this could be their opportunity to reverse the trend. Stony Point won just twice last season after producing six winning records in a row.
BELTON AT GEORGETOWN
In Brett Sniffin’s debut as Belton’s head coach last season, the Tigers built a 27-7 halftime advantage at home only to see the Eagles rally to victory by scoring 29 unanswered points, including 22 in the fourth quarter. Now, Belton seeks revenge against a squad that graduated all but six starters.
ELLISON AT 5A-D2 NO. 4 LIBERTY HILL
Coming off a 2-8 campaign, the Eagles are rebuilding after replacing their head coach and offensive coordinator during the offseason, but they must jell quickly to avoid defeat. The Panthers beat Ellison 44-25 last year before winning six of their next eight games by at least 40 points.
HARKER HEIGHTS AT PFLUGERVILLE WEISS
The Knights topped the 35-point plateau seven times last season, and they might need to rely on their offense again, especially early in the season, after graduation ravaged the defensive roster. The Wolves will be eager to compete after their final three games last year were cancelled due to COVID-19.
SHOEMAKER AT SAN ANGELO CENTRAL
In a rematch of last season’s opener, the Grey Wolves look to repeat the showing after posting their most points of the year in a 61-35 victory that propelled them to the second most victories in program history.
The Bobcats went two rounds into the playoffs but also usher in a new head coach.
6A NO. 1 AUSTIN WESTLAKE AT 6A NO. 35 TEMPLE
The Wildcats are easily one of the area’s elite teams, but the Chaparrals are a perennial powerhouse, looking for a third consecutive state championship after outscoring opponents by 631 points last season.
Temple possesses the talent to pull off an upset, but it will probably require a shootout as Westlake scored at least 50 points 10 times last year.
MEXIA AT LAKE BELTON
An interim head coach will manage the Blackcats after former head coach Brady Bond – the third person to hold the position in three years – unexpectedly resigned last week. The Broncos, who are not eligible for the playoffs until 2022, aim to pounce on the situation.
4A-D! NO. 20 LAMPASAS AT BROWNWOOD
Talent remains at Lampasas, but questions about its collective potential loom for the first time in years after graduation plucked numerous pieces from the squad that finished last year ranked second in the state poll.
Despite having only lost one regular-season game since Oct. 19, 2018, the Badgers’ spot in the top 25 is probably on the line.
4A-D2 NO. 12 SALADO AT TROY
The Eagles intend to pick up right where they left off before eventual Class 4A, Division II state champion Carthage derailed their 10-game winning streak in the third round of the playoffs. Salado outscored its opponents by a combined 257 points last season, including a 46-27 win against the Trojans.
3A-D1 NO. 14 LLANO AT GATESVILLE
The Hornets are not favored, but they are motivated. In last season’s opener, the Yellowjackets humbled Gatesville by scoring 28 unanswered points en route to a 45-16 victory, and then, after rallying to earn a playoff berth, the Hornets were forced to forfeit the first-round game. Now, they hope to atone for both experiences.
JOHNSON CITY AT FLORENCE
Since 2016, the Eagles have dominated the series, winning the last four contests by a combined 79 points, including a 14-point, 34-20, victory last season, when the Buffaloes trailed 21-0 following the first quarter.
Making matters worse, Florence is coming off a winless season and only has three victories since 2017.