Anthony Fairbanks makes a dash up the field early in the Tigers’ scrimmage against Vandegrift at Tiger Field on Thursday night (August 23).
Photo by Tony Adams, Sports Editor, The Belton Journal.
The Belton Tigers Football program hosted the Vandegrift Vipers in a tri-level scrimmage at Tiger Field last Thursday night.
The scrimmage was held a week ahead of team’s home opener this Friday against Austin Westlake.
Over 1,200 combined players took the field in the six combined games.
The freshmen started the scrimmage, with the freshman A and B teams playing on Tiger Field. Freshman C played on Tigers Practice Field, by the old fieldhouse.
Following two 15-minute and two 10-minute timed-quarters, the freshmen left the gridiron and the two junior varsity teams did battle on both ends of Tiger Field.
The varsity teams took the field around 7:15 p.m. and scrimmaged for 100 plays before two 15-minute quarters.
The special teams took the field for a few punts on each side. Logan Smith looked strong, with a pair of 40+ yard punts.
Belton’s offense took the field for the first drive of the scrimmage. Connor Carothers took the helm for the first string of plays and was sharp. He completed passes to Anthony Fairbanks (nine yards), Ruben Jimenez (12 yards), Denver Holman (12 yards) and tossed a 35-yard touchdown strike to Fairbanks. He also scramble for a 10-yard gain.
The Tigers’ defense took the field for the next cycle, as Vandegrift went on offense. Devin Martinez bookended the drive with sacks at each end of the 14-play cycle. Devyn Raper had two pass defenses and laid a crushing hit to a receiver to create an incompletion. Isidro Martinez. Sam Ramirez, Octavius Davis, Jeremiah Wade, and Jarrett Karnowski forced the Vipers to weigh their options carefully with punishing blocks and relentless pursuits. Jason Stephens and Christian Castillo had key pass deflections, as Belton’s defense held Vandegrift scoreless.
In the second Belton offensive cycle, the Tigers sent Jimenez in at quarterback. Marques Aguilar picked up the drive’s first 29 yards on two carries for 16 yards and a bubble-screen pass for 13 yards. Jimenez completed two passes to Seth Hussey for 18 yards before turning to the running game. D’emante Smith toted the rock three straight times for 14 yards to set up Jimenez’s 18-yard completion to Casey Brewer to get the Tigers into the red zone. Tyler Cook was pulled down near the end zone on a pass attempt and Vandegrift was hit with a pass interference call. Smith smashed into the end zone from two yards out for Belton’s second score of the game.
Belton’s defense went back out for their second cycle and made their presence felt again. Devin Martinez and Isidro Martinez combined on another sack and Christian Castillo made an interception on the goal line to turn away the Vipers’ offense.
The Tigers’ next offensive series turned into a score in six plays. After Aguilar and Dean Blondmonville worked the ball past the first down marker, Carothers hit Jose Perez on the fly with a pass. Perez sprinted past the Vipers’ secondary and scored on the 57-yard catch.
Vandegrift took the field again, and the Tigers’ answered the challenge. The defensive line dropped the Vipers’ running back for a one-yard loss and Karnowski sacked the quarterback for another one-yard loss. The drive ended with a Davis sack on the cusp of the red zone.
Belton scored on the next offensive drive on a 45-yard run, and the Tigers’ defense wrapped up the untimed script with a strip and fumble recovery.
In the timed scrimmage, both teams went three-and-out to start. Vandegrift could not get going on their second drive and was forced to punt after three plays.
Working from their own 26, the Tigers struck for their biggest gain of the scrimmage. Blondmonville took the handoff from Carothers, sprinted around the right side and raced 74 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. Smith’s point-after kick sailed wide left.
Vandegrift went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and punted the ball away to end the first timed quarter.
Belton started out on offense in the second timed quarter. The Tigers sent out Hussey for the drive and was efficient. He threw four passes in the drive, completing one attempt for six yards. Hussey, Blondmonville and Martin Compean combined for 27 yards on the ground. The drive stalled on fourth down and four on an incomplete pass at the Vandegrift 38.
The Vipers scored on a 10-yard run to wrap up a five-play, 63-yard drive. The extra-point try was successful.
Hussey got the call for the second drive and completed a pass for five yards. Cook took a hand off on an end around for six yards and Compean bulldozed his way forward for a three-yard gain. Smith’s 42-yard punt gave Vandegrift their final drive start on their own 12-yard line.
The Belton defense forced two incomplete passes before the horn sounded, signifying the end of the scrimmage.
The defense played outstanding and was a force throughout the scrimmage.
“Front seven did a good job of controlling their gaps and flying to the football,” Belton defensive coordinator Bryce Monsen said. “They played fast and well. I thought our secondary played extremely well for a scrimmage. What was impressive was their coverage skills and their tackling in the open field.”
The offense showed a great deal of resilience after a tough go of things after the Towel Scrimmage back on August 18.
“It was a good scrimmage on all three levels,” Belton offensive coordinator Brian Cope said. “We got better on each team and that was exciting to see. The O-line did a good job with all of their stunts and twists. They are starting to grow up which is big to see. Starting only one senior will always make you a little nervous but the underclassmen are mature beyond years.”
The offense was big when it to turning around field position into scores. The quarterback race has been a big one this summer.
“All the QB’s improved from the towel scrimmage,” Cope said. “Connor did a good job of managing the offense and taking the gifts when they were available. He is also is a calming influence on the running backs and the O-line. Ruben is explosive and is going to be used at QB, WR and on special teams. Seth will also be used at Wide Receiver and on special teams. It is a fun room to be around with those three guys. They all root for each other, which makes it fun to coach.”
The running backs were extremely effective, when it came to moving the ball and moving the sticks.
“Martin Compean is a great kid and has been a part of our program for four years,” Cope said. “He always has a positive attitude and it was fun to watch his hard work pay off. The other three running backs are very explosive. They are one missed tackle away from breaking long runs. You win football games by winning the turnover battle and the explosive play battle. We are looking forward to getting the ball into the running backs hands as often as possible.”
Cope’s offense certainly saw his receivers have a solid game receiving, and blocking after the catch.
“As explosive as our running backs are, so is our receiving core,” Cope said. “They also take pride in blocking which has been a huge emphasis in our offense. They want to win the perimeter every time they step on the field. It will be an advantage for us on Friday nights.”