It was appropriate that the city’s oldest rivalry was played on a Thursday night because the latest edition of Ellison vs. Killeen was a throwback, too — before teams lit up the scoreboards like they do in the modern high school game.
And in a contest where points were at a premium, the Eagles turned to their defense to seal the deal.
Quinten Jefferson and LaJarius Anthony were among a group of Eagles that made the biggest play of the game, tackling Killeen junior running back Jamaal King in the end zone to secure Ellison’s 9-6 victory on Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“It was huge,” Ellison head coach Trent Gregory said of the safety. “It was huge and the defense one more time was stepping up and we were able to make enough plays offensively to get through this thing. We’re going to keep working.”
The win guarantees a winning season for the Eagles (6-2) who improved to 2-2 in District 12-6A play while Killeen (2-5) fell to 1-2 in league play.
It was Ellison’s first win over Killeen since 2009.
Ellison junior quarterback Carl Robinson III led the Eagles offense completing 21 of 33 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 45 yards on nine carries. Ellison junior wide receiver X’Zavier Green caught five passes for 68 yards and a score.
“It’s hard to find words after a game like this, but somehow, some way, we’ve got to find a way,” Killeen head coach Neil Searcy said. “We’ve got to be able to put points on the board. I was proud of the way our defense played all night long, but we’ve got to find a way, we’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, making mental mistakes when we’re driving the football.”
Killeen senior quarterback Kenny Arnold led the Roos, completing 18 of 33 passes for 136 yards, King had 14 carries for 66 yards and sophomore Montego Muckelvaney had five catches for 60 yards.
Ellison was ahead 7-6 and punted on a late drive in the game, a 42-yarder to pin Killeen on its own 2 and force the Roos to drive 98 yards for a touchdown or about 78 to get into field goal range. with 2:19 remaining.
Killeen tried to get some breathing room by running on the right side of the offensive line with King, but he was quickly swallowed up by a group of four different Eagles as Jefferson and Anthony were the first to make contact.
“That was a killer,” Searcy said. “That’s one of those things, we have to be able to bow our neck and come out of the goal line there.”
The Eagles were able to take a minute off the clock with the ensuing possession and force Killeen to burn both remaining timeouts before the Roos defense forced a punt and got the ball back on its own 20 with 1:13 remaining.
Arnold managed to hit Tillis for completions of 14 and 7 yards, but the drive stalled after six plays and Ellison clinched the win.
The Roos allowed just 204 yards and won the turnover battle, but were flagged four times for 50 yards in the fourth quarter and converted only 4-of-18 of its chances on third and fourth downs.
The Eagles got off to a hot start on their first offensive series of the contest, driving 72 yards on nine plays. Robinson hit Green for a 24-yard scoring connection to make it 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
“We just came out aggressive,” Robinson said. “We know that we slowed down during the rest of the game, but we picked it back up and got the ‘W.’”
Arnold orchestrated a 13-play scoring drive on Killeen’s final possession of the first half that went 63 yards. Junior Hector Velazquez capped the scoring drive drive with a 31-yard field goal that cut the Ellison lead to 7-3 36 seconds before halftime.
The Roos got points on their first offensive drive of the second half as Velazquez capped a six-play 51-yard drive with a 40-yard field goal to get Killeen to within 7-6.
“It felt good, but we’ve got to add onto it,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to get into the playoffs and that’s our goal.”
Contact Albert Alvarado at email@example.com