Harker Heights captured its first win of the 2018 season with impassioned defense and just enough offense to pull away from Waco High, 36-17, Friday at Waco ISD Stadium

The Knights improved to 1-6, 1-4 in District 12-6A play while the Lions dropped to 1-5, 0-4, losing its fifth straight game, making it a most unhappy homecoming for the home team.

“We’ve just got to get better in all phases of the game,” said first-year Waco coach and former Waco Lions player Kwame Cavil. “They always say the biggest room in the house is room for improvement. This team has got a lot of growing up to do, a lot of improvement.”

For all the offense in the game, the Harker Heights defense made one of the biggest plays of the game when the stuffed Waco on fourth-and-one with 7:35 left in the game and ahead 30-17.

The Lions drove from their own 20 to the Knights’ 1-yard line, but trailing by 13 points and running short of time, they decided to try and score. But they came up short after a fumbled center quarterback exchange on fourth down stopped the play short.

After forcing a Harker Heights punt from deep in its own territory, Waco got the ball at midfield, but was unable to move and was stopped again on fourth down after a fake punt.

Harker Heights scored one more time on a Rhomel Dudley 34-yard run for the final margin, sending the Knights celebrating in front of their fans and Cavil shaking his head looking for more answers on a team he once starred on.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I know that and I accept that and that’s why I was brought here. We will get better, I can promise you that,” he said.

After a defensive first quarter by two district teams desperate for a victory, district or otherwise, the Waco ISD scoreboard got a good workout as the action picked up the second quarter.

The Lions took advantage of a key fourth down penalty which allowed them to keep the ball and they took advantage, capping the second chance with a 24-yard field goal by Chris Esqueda for a 3-0 lead.

After a long punt backed the Lions up to their 1-yard-line, they were called for holding beyond the goal line which resulted in a safety for Harker Heights and a 3-2 Waco lead.

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Harker Heights' Jaylan Washington is tackled by Waco High's Jaydon Ridge (bottom left) during the first half.

Both offenses returned to the game in a big way midway through the second quarter with three touchdowns in a 10-play stretch.

The Knights found the scoring land first when running back Contavieon Johnson broke up the middle for a 37-yard scoring run. Jamie Vargas kicked the extra point for a 9-3 lead.

Waco came right back with speedy senior running back Randy Carpenter broke down the left sideline, cut toward midfield and nobody could to catch him, scoring from 51-yards away and a 10-9 edge after Esqueda kick. He finished the first half with six carries for 88 yards and had 144 for the night.

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Waco High's Montana Taylor (left) tries to escape from Harker Heights' Malik Wilson during the first half.

With less than a minute before the homecoming halftime, Harker Heights scored to take the lead on a second Johnson run, this one from 11 yards out and a 16-10 halftime lead.

The widened their lead on the first drive of the second half with a 55-yard drive capped by a 7-yard scoring run by Andre Gabhardt. The extra point by Vargas made is 23-10 Harker Heights,

But as they did all throughout the game, Waco came right back with a score of their own. Ebron highlighted a short drive with a 3 yard run cutting the deficit to 23-17.

But Harker Heights ended the third quarter the same way they started it with another touchdown. Quarterback Alex Munoz fooled the Waco defense with a naked bootleg on fourth down for a two-yard scoring run for a 30-17 lead after three quarters.

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