By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of The Belton Journal Sports Department’s look back at 2015. In the December 24, 2015 issue, we looked at accomplishments in 2015. In the December 31, 2015 issue, we began our first of two parts of the teams look back. This week, we give you the second part of the teams look back.
Belton Football: 5-6 overall, 3-3 District 12-6A, Texas UIL Class 6A Bi-District Finalists.
One may take a look at the overall and district record and be completely underwhelmed.
This team accomplished a great deal and records are deceiving. They set a team record for points in a season (452 in 11 games) and rushing yards in a season (3,202). Olajuwon Taylor set a school single season mark with 12 touchdown receptions, touchdown receptions in a game with three and receiving yards in a game with 225 against Pflugerville Hendrickson on September 4. Davion Peoples set a school record for longest run from scrimmage with a 98-yard run in the playoffs against Rowlett on November 13.
This was a tightly-knit team that supported each other in all three facets of the game. They picked each other up and did what they could to get through tough battles. In their 11 games, they led in every single game, but lost five of six in the fourth quarter (the other in the third quarter against Midway). The five games that were lost in the fourth quarter were by combined total of 16 points.
Most people will look back and have varied opinions on the best game of the year. Some will look at being down 21-0 at the half in Killeen and coming back to win 28-27 against Ellison. Others will look 596 yards rushing between Peoples (31 carries, 305 yards, 2 TDs) and Demeatric Brandon (22 carries, 291, 3 TDs) against Copperas Cove in their 59-52 loss, falling in the final minute.
The game that many will remember for years to come will be the heartbreaking loss 65-64 to Rowlett in the Bi-District round of this year’s playoffs. Peyton Mansell had a dynamite game passing, going 29-of-44 for 289 yards and four touchdowns, two going to Taylor (12 receptions, 89 yards), one going to Weston Lucas (4 receptions, 67 yards) and one to Remington Lutz for 24 yards. Peoples went off of 201 yards on 21 carries and 4 TDs, while Brandon added 74 yards on three carries and Mansell had 12 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown run.
The defense had a difficult time containing the powerful Eagle offense, though Garrison Vaughn had a timely interception, Bryan Thomas and Carlton Shanks III had excellent pass defense and the front seven created havoc in Rowlett’s offensive game plan. John Harvey had 17 tackles, Vaughn had 13 and Alex Aaron and Chris Jones each had 12.
The Tigers trailed 17-16 after the first quarter and 37-30 at the half. They took the lead in the third quarter 56-51 and led 64-51 (immediately after Peoples’ school-record 98-yard scamper) with 7:14 to go.
Rowlett quarterback Logan Bonner, wide receiver/running back Ladarius Dickens and running back Kobe Morrow were unstoppable in the game and a pair of late touchdowns, combined with a pair of defensive stands by the Eagles, ended the Tigers season.
Mansell garnered honors for District 12-6A Co-Offensive Player of the Year and First Team Offense, going 138-of-231 for 1,708 yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs and had 661 yards on 113 carries and 10 touchdowns.
Peoples earned First Team All-District, was runner-up for the District 12-6A rushing crown, carrying the ball 199 times for 1,485 yards (305 against Copperas Cove, 201 yards against Rowlett and five other 100-yard games) and 23 touchdowns. He also added 22 catches for 160 yards and led the team in all-purpose yardage with 1,911 yards.
Taylor led the team in receptions (54), yards (767), longest reception (84) and a school-record 12 TD catches in earning First Team All-District honors.
Zach Shackelford earned First Team All-District honors on the offensive line. The four-year starter and his offensive line mates beside him blocked the offenses way to the school’s most prolific rushing season to date.
Brandon collected Second Team All-District honors, playing in just seven games. But he had a season most would dream about, rushing for 733 yards (including 291 against Copperas Cove and 232 against Midway), on 96 carries and 5 TDs.
Harvey was Second Team All-District, but had some of the district and state’s best linebackers immediately ahead of him on the first team. He had 153 tackles (110 solo), had six sacks and tackles for loss.
Lutz was named Second Team All-District tight end, Javon Chambers was named Second Team All-District offensive lineman, Jacob Dumas received dual Second Team All-District honors as center and long snapper and kicker Roberto Barrios was named Second Team All-District placekicker.
Twenty-five Tigers were named to the All-Academic District 12-6A Team, eight Tigers were named to the Texas High School Coaches Association Academic All-State Team and Shackelford for named to the 2015 Associated Press Class 6A First Team All-State Team.
The Tigers lose 31 players to graduation, but with a sub-varsity program that went 34-10-1 (JV teams went 10-0 and 7-3 respectively) the cupboards stocked for head coach Bob Shipley, offensive coordinator Sam Skidmore and defensive coordinator Phil Shaffer.
Belton Football, Sub-varsity: Combined 34-10-1
Much in the way of the past two seasons, the Belton Tigers’ sub-varsity experienced great success in the 2015 season.
The five sub-varsity teams went a combined 34-10-1, outscoring teams 1,178-541.
That’s an average score of 26-12. A two-touchdown differential combined up and down the ranks is an impressive one.
The crown jewel in the season was the Belton JV Red team finishing with a perfect 10-0 record. Outscoring teams 389-88, the nearest team came to within just 16 points of the Tigers.
“This was a really good group to work with,” Belton coach Mike Morgan said. “One of the big selling points to the kids was that they had a tremendous opportunity to go out and compete each week. As the season progressed and the team kept winning, we talked about the opportunity to be perfect as a team. There is never a perfect play in a game and never a perfect game, it is not possible. But a team has the opportunity to have a perfect season and that is what the JV Red was able to accomplish. They are a very unselfish group of players and they bought in that if they played extremely hard and did their job, then they would have a great chance to be successful.”
The Belton JV White team finished 6-2 against tough competition as well, outscoring the opposition 181-112. Though games against Stony Point (weather) and Ellison (JV teams merged) were cancelled, coach Jason Moffett and his staff worked hard with their players to guide them towards success.
“We try to find ways to really make the White Team important,” Moffett said. “We try not to allow our guys to think of themselves as “B” Team players. We want to win ball games and be district champs, no matter what the level. We spend a lot of time coaching these guys. I think a lot more than some other teams in our area. I saw improvement defensively over the course of the year in terms of alignment, assignment and tackling.”
The Belton Freshman Red team finished 7-3, outscoring opponents 273-146. A few of the freshmen were called up to junior varsity throughout the season.
“Freshmen improved from the start of camp, all the way until the last game of the year,” Belton coach Al Maxwell said. “The improvement was most evident in the physical condition and most importantly the mental toughness of the team as a whole.”
The Freshman White team was two points from a perfect season in their own rights (a late-season loss to Midway 29-27), having gone 9-1 in 2015, outscoring opponents 269-94.
The Freshman Gray team played just a 7-game schedule and finished 2-4-1, having been outscored 101-66. Most of the players were brought up to Freshman Red and Freshman White at the completion of the schedule.
“The guys achieved good things this football season by winning 18 games and competing with three teams,” Maxwell said. “The guys’ mental toughness was on display each game and showed when games became tough and crowds were hostile. The guys did very this season and will look to win a district championship next season.”
The key to the success of the Tigers sub-varsity programs is the work that the players put in and the coaching staff and how they coach. It is a uniformed system, up and down the ranks.
“We spend a lot of time as coaches with our sub-varsity teams,” Belton head football coach Bob Shipley said. “I can’t imagine any sub-varsity teams in our district who get more individual coaching from varsity coaches than our kids do. The JV kids have to be scout team players of course but we spend a lot of time with them outside of varsity practice. They are well prepared every week. If you want to change a culture and have kids expecting to win, you have to invest a lot of time in them before they are varsity players. Our kids are learning how to win for sure. I’ve had kids tell me several times that they never won more than a game or two in middle school and they love winning in high school. That lets us know that it’s all worth it.”
The talent is so abundant in the Belton sub-varsity system that the varsity team was able to bring up players to add to their depth and keep the junior varsity and freshman teams very competitive. Although there are too many potential names to name players to watch in particular over the next season or two or three, Shipley believes that the 10th grade season for a football player is one of the most critical seasons.
“There are several JV players we expect to start for us next year,” Shipley said. “It should be that way every year. We only had 2 sophomore players on varsity the majority of the season. I think 10th grade is a critical time for players. They need to be playing as much as possible. If they’re going to be on varsity as sophomores, they need to be starting because they’re not getting any better standing on the sidelines. They need to be getting every snap on Thursday nights so they can continue to develop as players and improve.”
Belton Powerlifting: Boys-13 ranked 2015 THSPA Top 25 final rankings (Three in Top 5: Javon Chambers 4th at SHW, Braden Martinez, state qualifier, 4th at 275 and Joe Warehime, 5th at 198), Girls-25 ranked in 2015 THSWPA Top 25 final rankings (Six in Top 5: Dana Young State Runner-up at 148, Arianna Garcia 4th at 105, Mia Garcia 5th at 105, Maria Martinez 5th at 114, Morgan Callin 4th at 181, Katie King 5th at 220).
The Tigers and Lady Tigers Powerlifting teams had a dynamite 2015 season and are loaded up again for 2016. The 2016 previews are in this week’s sports section.
Whenever you have 55 Belton lifters finish within the state’s top 100 in different weight classes, you have one of the state’s best powerlifting programs. It’s no accident that Belton student-athletes are some of the best conditioned and academically adept in the area. It is not unusual to see these athletes open a book or do homework at meets. But while they keep up on their studies, they in tune with their teammates and their lifts.
Belton Swimming: Boys-District 12-6A Champions, Region II 7th Place. Girls-District 12-6A Champions, Region II Runner-Up. Noah Henry-Fifth place in State 100 backstroke.
Speaking of another group that cleans up in the classroom, as well as in the pool, is Belton Tigers and Lady Tigers Swimming. The three-time dual district champions (their first two in District 12-5A and this season in District 12-6A) have the potential to get to state.
The talent in the pool is boundless for Belton head coach Patrick Henry’s program.
Noah Henry, one of the state and country’s best swimmers, took fifth place in the Class 6A State meet in the 100 meter backstroke, swimming a 50.54 in preliminaries and 50.97 in the finals. With 2016 being an Olympic year in Rio de Janiero, expect to see Noah make a push for an Olympic spot.
Teammates Troy Morrow, Andrew Alas, Drew Fitzwater, Michael McDonald, Eric Belcher, Matt Phillips, John Farek and several others contributed greatly during the 2014-2015 season.
Savannah Henry, Savannah Bush, Maggie Murphy, Natalie Hazlewood, Maddie Finley, Carissa Basaldua, Kennedy Mayo, Courtney Lamm, Samantha Pentico, Mercedes Marcus, Emily Soliz, Alayne Johnson, Kelsey Johnson and several others kept the Lady Tigers up on the leaderboards throughout the 2014-2015 season.
Belton Girls’ Soccer: 15-3-3 overall, District 12-6A Champion at 11-1 (12th consecutive district championship), Bi-District Finalists.
The Belton Lady Tigers celebrated their 12th consecutive district championship in 2015 with stellar goalkeeping from Courtney Dippel (now at West Texas A&M), great offense from Aubrey Martinez (district-leading 31 goals), Lexi Mack, Mattie Krenek, Tiarra Hodges, Jamie Brown, Alison Navarro, Emily Navarro and defense from Hodges, Erica Anderson, Sara Villamaria, Caroline Stegall, Adrienne Reichl throughout the season.
Following a tough NEPS Showcase in the Dallas-area, the Lady Tigers dominated all comers and lost just three games all season. They overcame the loss of two team captains to injury, Briana Davis (now at Texas A&M) and Emma Villamaria.
Falling just once in District 12-6A, a 1-0 loss on their home field to Midway, they came back and won 2-1 over the Pantherettes on their own home pitch and took the district crown.
The Lady Tigers lost a tough, controversial game against Rowlett in Corsicana 2-1 in overtime. They lost Martinez 14 seconds after she put Belton on the board to a leg injury in a collision and Dippel was interfered with during a save attempt with 19:33 to go in the second half which resulted in the tying goal. A goal by the Lady Eagles with 7:37 remaining in overtime resulted in the end of the Lady Tigers’ season.
The team graduated Dippel, Martinez, Brown, Reichl and Emma Villamaria. They have a solid core back for the 2016 season.
Belton Boys’ Soccer: 20-3-1 overall, District 12-6A Champions, Regional Quarterfinalists.
Belton Soccer entered its 30th anniversary looking for another district championship and did so in powerful fashion.
Ryan Diaz and Blake Odell provided lots of scoring punch, Chris Noble provided great goalkeeping and Jacob Bell, Paxton Smith, Brendan Coulter, Thomas Shelburne, Roberto Barrios, Tyler Fisher, Tyler McLean, MacGregor Wooten and several other provided the Tigers lots of two-way support.
The Tigers played a challenging schedule from the start and kept the ball rolling, as many teams found the shots behind their keepers during the season.
Belton made a three-round deep run in the playoffs, including the exciting area-playoff round against Irving Nimitz help at Wilson Kerzee Field.
Odell was the Offensive Player of the Year in District 12-6A, Belton head coach Cizo Mosnia was the coach of the year.
The team is a very young one in 2016, but they turned plenty of state observers in the 2015 season.
Girls Basketball: 15-17 overall, 3-9 District 12-6A.
With no reservations whatsoever, the 2014-2015 team set the table for their success so far in 2015-2016.
The 2014-2015 team withstood injuries, tight non-district tilts and a difficult District 12-6A slate that featured talent across the area, while learning and continuing to buy into Belton head coach Brenda Gomez and her system of play.
Cammie Moore, Aubrianna Garcia, Emily del Real, Kaitlyn Jones, Keilee Burke, Jhynae McCray, McKinzee Robinson, Shonda Powers, Samantha Cooper, Tina Jones and Cameron Jackson all contributed to the team’s success.
In the calendar year of 2015, the Lady Tigers had a winning record, going 20-11 (3-5 in start of calendar year, 17-6 at the end of it). That’s a true sign that the Lady Tigers’ basketball program has made the turn Gomez envisioned.
Belton Track and Field: Boys-Third at District 12-6A Meet, second at Area Meet, 19th at Region II Meet, Class 6A State Runner-Up in 300 meter hurdles (Will Watson). Girls-Fourth at District 12-6A Meet, Third at Area Meet, 13th at Region II Meet, Class 6A State Third Place in Discus (Bekah Alcozer).
The inclement weather early last spring cost Belton a chance to get in more competitive opportunities. But in the meets they were in, they were spectacular.
On the boys’ side, they received strong performances from Will Watson, Soren San Miguel, Olajuwon Taylor, Calvin Johnson III, Bryson Coufal, Sam Hussey, Logan Zwerneman, Tevin Jones, and Reagan Chapman, amongst others.
On the girls’ side, Alcozer not only qualified for the state meet in discus, but was also one of the top softball players for the Lady Tigers. Kaylee Krenek continued her great running in hurdles, Brooke Gilmore was brilliant in the long distance running events and Claire Woodson just missed a state berth in the pole vault. McKenna Thompson, Cameron Renfrow, Khallyl Hodges, Jamie Brown, Delaney Presley, Macy Niemi, Courtney Altenburg and Destiny Thompkins, among others, contributed to the success of Lady Tiger Track in 2015.
Belton Golf: Boys’-District 12-6A Champions, Region II 9th place, Girls’-District 12-6A Runner-Up, Region II 7th place.
The constant success of the Belton Golf program, under the guidance of Tigers’ head coach Jim Hellums and Lady Tigers’ head coach Lauren Marx, can be measured by the work ethic of the two coaches with their respective teams.
The two Number 1’s, Dalton Hankamer and Madison Smith, are both bound for Division I golf programs in the University of San Diego and Dallas Baptist University respectively. Both teams had solid depth up and down the lineups and produced consistently.
Tiger ONE shot the only sub-300 round at the district tournament and Lady Tigers finished two strokes behind Midway at the district tournament, but finished a stroke ahead of the Pantherettes at the regionals.
Both sides of the program have returned the bulk of their squads for the 2015-2016.
Belton Tennis: Individual Tennis (Spring 2015)-Individual District 12-6A Champion (Tara Donaho in singles), Eight Regional finalists. Team Tennis (Fall 2015)-District 12-6A Runner-up, Area Finalist, 16 All-District members.
The Belton Tennis team enjoyed another successful tennis year, as they continued building their stellar foundation.
Donaho won the District 12-6A Championship in Girls’ Singles play and is headed to University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley to play tennis. Among the players having great seasons for Belton were Lauren Phillips, Mayra Perez, Austin Hagen, Abigail Kendall, Riley Wesson, Trevor Reed and Caleb Cable.
Belton Cross Country: Girls-District 12-6A Champions, Region II 7th place, Two State finalists (Brooke Gilmore 44th place and Olivia Houlden 99th place). Boys-District 12-6A 4th Place, Regional II Finalist (Christhian Loyola 89th place).
The Belton Cross Country program remains one of the area’s best, with continued emergence of Gilmore, Houlden and Loyola.
Gilmore and Houlden shaved their times throughout the season, with Gilmore reducing her three-mile time by 30.65 seconds through the course of the season and Houlden knocked her times down by 39.41. They are the standard that the program is measured by and are two of more accomplished girls’ cross-country runners since Regan Tindell.
The boys’ side experienced a down year, with several injuries. But the 2016 season looks to be a solid one ahead.
In Memoriam: Losses within the Belton Tigers’ family in 2015.
The Belton Tigers family lost three community members in 2015: Former football head coach/athletic director Hugh “Sonny” Sullivan, offensive lineman Mike Doyal (1983-1985) and cheerleader Sarah Kaitlyn Tindell (2008-2012).
Sullivan coached the Tigers from 1978-1981 and was a longtime athletic director and educator in Belton Independence School District.
Doyal, better known as Mikey D, was one the 1980’s most popular lineman, a longtime Belton resident and season ticket holder.
Sarah Kait, a former Belton Cheerleader, won her longtime fight with Ewing’s Sarcoma shortly before Christmas, as her fight was documented back in June. The Sarah Kait vs. Childhood Cancer Foundation was established in her honor.