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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Hunger driving Knights: Coach Edwards hoping to return team to playoffs

Hunger driving Knights: Coach Edwards hoping to return team to playoffs

Head coach: Jerry Edwards. 2016 Record: 6-5, District 8-6A record/placement: 3-3, fourth place, D-I bi-district finalist.

 

ALLEN FISHER

Sports Writer

Hunger is the primal driving force in nature and also drives the Harker Heights Knights football team as they open the 2017 season.

“This team is hungry to get back to the playoffs,” said Harker Heights head football coach Jerry Edwards. “They had a taste of it last year and they know they have a great opportunity to return back.  They felt they left a little bit out there so they’ve come back with a laser-sharp focus and are ready to go.”

The Knights kick off the season opener at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Elgin where Edwards will start his fifth year as head coach of the Knights football team with a record of 16-26, including last year’s record of 7-5, 3-3D for third place in 6A District 8.

Harker Heights ended last year’s run one round into playoffs with a 24-7 loss to Duncanville after a four-year dry run out of the playoffs,

The Knights varsity have 36 returners, six of them offensive, and will again be looking to their strong run game to carry them back into the playoffs.

“We build our program on defense and the run game and that’s not going to ever change,” said Edwards. “From week to week, we’ll add a new formation here or there but we stay pretty true to our core.”

Offensive coordinator Derek Ruthdardt has been working with junior Marcel Ramirez in the quarterback position as he was a receiver on last year’s roster along with Ja-Quan Tillis who is moving into the tailback position.

In the Knights’ power-spread offense Senior Jameel Hodges, last year’s district leader in rushing and returns, will be returning at started running back, with fullback Markel Reo.

“Offensively we got a few new assignments, like the quarterback we need to get them up to speed,” said Edwards. “Our strength is going to be running the football. We’ve got some of our key offensive lineman back and that’s going to help.”

The offensive backs won’t be the only ones learning new positions as Edwards will lead his 3-4 defense with only two returners.

“We’re young on defense,” Edwards said, “We’re trying to get those guys up to varsity game speed. They’ve done a good job, but we’re still working out the kinks.”

Even if Edwards gets his team up to ‘varsity’ speed, it will be an up-hill battle against district-leader Midway High School whom the Knights will face the first weekend of October.

“Midway has been district champions the last three years and I know they have a lot of Division 1 athletes this year so I know they’re going to be tough,” Edwards said.

“It’s a tough district from bottom to top. Last year, we were able to beat Belton and Copperas Cove on the road and lost a couple of close games we should’ve won at home, but you just never know on any given night what’s going to happen here.”

But before Midway, Harker Heights will have to open against Elgin, a team they beat last year, 35-14.

“We definitely want to go down there and win,” Edwards said. “But the goal of those first four non-district games is to get better each week. So win or lose, as long as we are improving every week to get ready for our district opener against Belton, that’s what we want to do.”

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