By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Tigers hosted the Waco Panthers on Thursday night, a night earlier than scheduled due to incoming, inclement weather that was due in on Friday.
A flood happened during the game, but it was a flood of sorts in the third quarter, as Midway posted 35 of a combined 56 points in the period to pull away from the Tigers and win 66-48.
The win elevated the Panthers to 4-0 in District 12-6A play and 6-3 overall. Belton dropped to 2-3 in District 12-6A play and 4-5 overall.
Belton jumped on the board 1:13 into the ball game. Davion Peoples’ 26-yard return gave to Tigers good field position on their first drive. Peyton Mansell’s 50-yard run on the second play from scrimmage put Belton into the red zone. Peoples hit pay turf from 10 yards away, capping the 4-play, 66-yard drive. Roberto Barrios’ extra-point gave Belton a 7-0 lead.
Midway answered with an 11-play, 56-yard, 2:33 drive that ended when Eric Clayburn busted into the end zone from two yards out. Jackson Smith’s extra-point tied the game 7-7 with 8:14 to go in the first quarter.
A beautifully executed kickoff reverse from Peoples to Olajuwon Taylor resulted in a 28-yard return to the Belton 36. Two plays later, Peoples busted into the open and scored a 66-yard touchdown. Barrios’ extra-point made the score 14-7 with 7:26 to go in the first quarter.
Belton’s defense answered the call on Midway’s next drive. Sam Glaesmann’s 17-yard run and 19-yard pass to Joseph Ward got the Panthers into the Belton red zone. Carlton Shanks III and Garrison Vaughn came up with three solid pass defenses, setting up Midway with a fourth down and five on the Belton 14. Smith’s 31-yard field goal sailed wide left gave the ball back to the Tigers with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged possessions, Midway evened up the score with Clayburn taking a snap out of the wildcat formation and hit Jake Graham with a 7-yard pass to cap off a 58-yard, 7-play drive. Smith’s extra point tied the game at 14-14 with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, Belton had a third down and 11 conversion attempt on their own 25-yard line. Mansell took the snap, made a juke at the 30, faked out a Panther defender and sprinted 57 yards to the Midway 19. Two plays later, Mansell scored from 11 yards away. Barrios’ extra-point with 11:26 left in the first half gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead.
Midway answered the drive with a 12-play, 45-yard drive following a 31-yard return by Dae-Dae Walker. Smith’s 31-yard field goal cut the Belton lead to four points, 21-17, with 8:01 remaining in the half.
Both teams traded possessions and Mansell’s punt pinned the Panthers at Midway’s 17-yard line. After a holding penalty, Glaesmann hit Clayburn over the middle at midfield and sprinted to the end zone, completing the 92-yard catch-and-run to give the Panthers the lead. Smith’s extra-point put Midway on top 24-21 with 3:44 to go in the half.
After another Belton punt, Midway drove to close out the first half. After a questionable pass interference call on the Tigers at the Belton 19, Glaesmann tried to force a pass into the end zone. Vaughn came down with the ball at the goal line to end the threat. The Panthers took a 24-21 lead into the locker room.
On the first play of the second half, Glaesmann hit Bryce Johnigan on a catch-and-run for 73 yards for a score. Smith’s extra-point put the Panthers up by 10 points, 31-21, 21 seconds into the third quarter.
Belton’s next drive ended on its first play. Peoples was stripped of the ball by Zach Heaverly. Midway scored two plays later, as Glaesmann connected with Ward for a 10-yard touchdown. Smith’s extra-point extended the lead to 17 points, 38-21, with 10:15 to play in the third quarter.
The Tigers could not get the offense going on the next drive, forcing Mansell to punt. His 55-yard boot put the Panthers on their own 20-yard line.
Glaesmann rifled a 27-yard pass to Graham moved the ball to the Midway 47. Glaesmann took the next snap, made two moves into the secondary and raced 53 yards for a touchdown. Smith’s point-after kick was true, making the score 45-21 with 8:17 remaining.
Belton methodically worked their way down field to keep the ball away from Midway for 3:40. Demeatric Brandon picked up 52 yards on the ground during the drive and Mansell hit Bubba Marshall with an 18-yard pass down to the Midway 1. Mansell dove across from a yard away and Barrios’ extra-point made the score 45-28 with 4:43 remaining.
Midway answered the touchdown on the kickoff, with Walker running the ball back 65 yards for a touchdown. Smith’s made the point-after and the Panthers took a 52-28 lead.
Belton answered the bell again on the next drive, as Mansell found Marshall for a 60-yard touchdown. Barrios’ extra-point moved the score back to within 17 points, 52-35, with 3:17 to play in the third quarter.
The Panthers took just four plays to answer the Tigers, as Clayburn’s 26-yard dash set up Glaesmann’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Treston Womack. Smith hit the point-after, making the score 59-35 with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Belton scored on the next play from scrimmage, as Brandon’s 67-yard run and Barrios’ extra-point moved the deficit back to 17 points, 59-42, with 2:17 left in the quarter.
Midway held onto the ball to finish out the third quarter and ate up 2:30 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Great defensive plays by Alex Aaron and Garrison Vaughn helped force a 46-yard field goal try from Smith, pulling it wide left.
Belton held the ball for seven plays on the next drive and worked the ball down to the Midway 22, but Brandon was a football’s-length short on fourth down and two gave the Panthers the ball back.
The Tigers’ defense held the Panthers to a three-and-out drive, giving Belton the ball back at midfield. Mansell connected with Taylor for 10 yards, Weston Lucas for seven yards and Mansell rushed for five yards. On fourth down and 10 on Midway’s 28-yard line, Mansell threw a sideline pass to Marshall, but the ball ended up just out of Marshall’s reach to give the ball back to Midway.
Midway’s final score came on a 9-play, 72-yard, 4:48 drive. Clayburn scored from a yard out and Smith hit the point-after to give the Panthers a 66-42 lead with 1:49 to play.
Belton fought to the end, as on the next drive Brandon’s 39-yard run and Mansell’s 41-yard pass to Logan Collins set up a two-yard pass from Mansell to Marshall. Mansell’s two-point conversion attempt was incomplete, just off of Anthony Mirabel’s fingertips to keep the score 66-48 with 14.1 seconds remaining.
The onside kick was recovered by Midway and they knelt on the final play to kill the clock.
“The third quarter just killed us,” Belton head coach Bob Shipley said. “There was 56 points in the third quarter combined. When you let them have a one-play, spot-pass and have horrible angling and tackling and let them go the distance for a score. And then we cough up the ball on our end of the field and give up another early touchdown. And then we kick off to them and give them an easy return for a touchdown. That’s very disappointing that we let those little things happen. They’re a great football team. If we would have come out in the third quarter and played better it would have been a different game. Maybe we would have had a chance. We never stopped fighting.”
Belton will play Harker Heights Thursday night at Leo Buckley Stadium at 7 p.m. The Tigers are in the same situation going into the Harker Heights game as they were in going into the final week of district play last season: needing a win against the Knights to secure a playoff spot.