By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The 2015 Lone Star Shootout featured many the area’s best 7-On-7 teams brought together to compete in the annual two-day tournament. This year’s installment of the event was held at North Belton Middle School, as the replacement of the field turf and track at Tiger Field on the campus of Belton High School continues.
Belton fielded two teams in the event, with the varsity team (Belton 1) playing in Pool 1 and junior varsity team (Belton 2) playing in Pool 3. Temple played in Pool 2.
Belton 1 got off to a quick start, picking up wins against Corsicana 23-7 and Elgin 37-28. They were nipped by Killeen Ellison 37-36 in a last-minute loss for their only loss in pool play. They won the next three games, dispatching tournament runner-up Kaufman 30-20, routed Leander Rouse 55-21 and dismantled Austin Anderson 41-18. They finished 5-1 and won the first place tie-breaker head-to-head with Kaufman based on the Tigers win over them. They outscored their opponents 222-131.
Belton 2 had a tough road, with the team fielding junior varsity players playing against varsity teams. They were shut out by Pool 3 champion Copperas Cove 32-0, lost 21-18 to Anderson, lost to Georgetown 42-35, were nipped by Killeen 27-23, beat by Scurry-Rosser 46-35 and were beat by Bastrop Cedar Creek 51-7. Belton 2 earned the sixth seed, outscored 219-118.
Temple won Pool 2 with wins over Killeen Shoemaker (25-14), Leander Vandegrift (47-20), Bsstrop Cedar Creek (37-28), Magnolia West (33-28), China Spring (30-9) and Elgin (31-16).
In the opening game of bracket play, Belton 2 was relegate to the Consolation Bracket with a 38-7 loss to Magnolia West and were eliminated from the tournament by Bastrop Cedar Creek 44-16. Although they finished 0-8 in the tournament and were outscored 301-141, the junior varsity held up well against the other varsity teams.
Temple won their first bracket game against Corsicana 58-23, but were eliminated by eventual champion China Spring 37-20. The Wildcats posted a 7-1 record, outscoring teams 281-175.
Belton 1 started bracket play with Killeen Ellison and hit pay dirt on the first play, as Peyton Mansell hit Bubba Marshall with a 45-yard touchdown.
Ellison’s first drive struggled as they picked up one first down. But pass defenses by Garrison Vaughn, Carlton Shanks III and Zaki Hill forced a turnover on downs.
The Tigers scored four plays later. After a four-second violation on first down, Mansell hit Davion Peoples with a 10-yard pass, Mansell made two shifty moves on an 18-yard run and hit Weston Lucas on the right side line for a 17-yard touchdown to put Belton up 14-0.
Vaughn and Cameron Przybylski made two key pass defenses on Ellison’s next drive, forcing a three-and-out for the Eagles.
Mansell connected with Anthony Mirabel on a 17-yard pass to give the Tigers a first down and hit Olajuwon Taylor with a 15-yard pass for another first down. Mansell ran the ball down to the six-yard line. On the final down of the drive, Mansell threw a ball up to Taylor in the front corner of the end zone and appeared to have made an excellent catch. But the line judge determined that he juggled the ball in the act of the catch and stepped out of bounds, turning the ball back over to Ellison.
Ellison drove down to the 15-yard line on the next drive. Following a pass defense by Vaughn, Shanks intercepted the ball on the goal line to give the Tigers two points under Lone Star Shoot Out rules (two points per interception plus possession of the ball, no runbacks) and extend the lead to 16-0.
Holding Belton 1 to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Ellison scored on an 18-yard pass to narrow their deficit to nine points, 16-7.
Belton was unfazed by the score and following an incompletion, Mansell hit Mirabel on a 45-yard fly pattern for seven more points. Vaughn picked the next ball off to give the Tigers an 18-point lead, 25-7.
The Tigers only needed three plays for the next score, as Mansell hit Braden Shaffer on a four-yard pass, scrambled for 14 yards and hit Peoples on a 27-yard pass down the middle to increase the Belton lead to 25, 32-7.
Following an Ellison touchdown and interception slicing the lead back to 16, 32-16, John Taggart hit Taylor with a pair of solid completions, going for 14 and 20 yards respectively and Taylor made a series of ankle-breaking moves against the tired Eagles’ defense. Taggart found Shaffer for a 5-yard touchdown to make the score 39-14.
After holding Ellison to another three-and-out, Taggart hit Logan Collins down the right sideline for a 44-yard completion down to the 1-yard line. On the next play, Taggart hit Peoples in the back of the end zone and fired a bullet that Peoples one-hand grabbed in front of the Belton coaching staff in the end zone for another score. John Harvey’s pass defense ended the ball game, giving Belton a 46-14 win and advanced them into the quarterfinals against Leander Vandegrift.
Belton’s first two drives against the Vipers both came up three yards short, Vandegrift scored on their first two drives, connecting on 10-yard and 38-yard passes to give the Vipers a 14-0 lead.
The Tigers regrouped and put together a solid team sequence over the next 15 minutes.
Mansell drove Belton down to the 20-yard line and found Weston Lucas to close out the drive to get the Tigers on the scoreboard with 16:34 to go, 14-7.
Shanks and Miguel Mendoza each had pass defenses on the next Vandegrift drive and a dropped pass gave Belton the ball back.
Mansell hit Taylor with 12-yard, 17-yard and 6-yard completions respectively to put the Tigers in the red zone. Mansell hit Mirabel with a 4-yard completion down to the 6-yard line. On the next play, Mansell rolled out to the left, faking the run and hit Marshall underneath on the goal line and into the end zone to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead with 11 minutes left.
The teams exchanged three-and-out drives before Vandegrift connected on a 37-yard pass to tie the game with six minutes left.
Taggart hit Mirabel with a 14-yard pass to the 31-yard line to start the next drive. Following an incompletion, Taggart grabbed a first down with a 3-yard pass to Mirabel. Completed passes to Mirabel (12) and Taylor (10 and 4 yards) put the Tigers within two yards of the end zone. An incompletion turned the ball over on downs, giving Vandegrift a chance at a go-ahead score with four minutes left.
Vandegrift picked up 32 yards on the three passes. Belton responded, holding the Vipers to a four-second violation and got another excellent pass defense from Hill. Vandegrift picked up the go-ahead touchdown from 13 yards away to take a 28-21 lead with 60 seconds left.
Mansell hit Marshall with a 10-yard completion with 40 seconds remaining. Following an incompletion, Mansell heaved a Hail Mary pass into the front of the end zone, leaving three Belton receivers and five Viper defenders to try and come down with the ball. Neither side came up with the ball, ending the game and ending the Tigers day.
Copperas Cove went perfect in the Pool 3 with a 6-0 record. But like Belton 1 and Temple, they were upset in the quarterfinal round by Kaufman 28-14, ending the tournament 7-1.
Kaufman beat Vandegrift 40-23 China Spring beat Magnolia West 26-22 in the semifinals. The Cougars nipped Kaufman in the last minute, taking home the Lone State Shootout Championship with a 26-22 win. Cedar Creek won the Consolation Bracket Championship with a 53-20 win over Leander Rouse.
China Spring’s wide receiver/defensive back Cutter Haigood was the Lone Star Shootout MVP and Kaufman’s wide receiver/defensive back Jefferson Fritz was the Offensive MVP.
The All-Tournament Offensive Team was: Temple’s Davion Curtis (WR), China Spring’s Kameron Coe (QB), Leander Vandegrift’s Travis Brannan (WR/RB), Belton’s Olajuwon Taylor (WR), Magnolia West’s Tyler Ferre (QB), Copperas Cove’s Gabe Williams (WR) and Bastrop Cedar Creek’s Trevor Roberts (WR/DB).
The All-Tournament Defensive Team was: Kaufman’s Dru Prox (LB), Magnolia West’s Damarren Mitchell (DB), Copperas Cove’s Shamad Lomax (DB), China Spring’s Brayden Mathis (LB), Belton’s Carlton Shanks III (DB), Killeen Ellison’s Joseph Williams (LB/DB) and Temple’s Corey Mann (LB).