By David Tuma
Belton started off the year lights out on defense last year, holding opponents to 12.7 points a game in the first five games. Belton gave up seven points and lost the first game in district but it was the 15 turnovers in three district losses, two returned for touchdowns, which played a major part of the team missing the playoffs.
After last week’s offensive fest by Temple, Round Rock, Cove, Harker Heights and Stony Point the Tigers will face five of the top offenses in the state last week. Belton is big and experienced on the defensive line but the back seven are all new.
The Tigers are experienced on offense and will need to run the football to slow down the game. Similar to what they did with Donovan Williams in 2011. Belton’s back seven can run, they are much faster but outside of lockdown corner Brandon Julian, still thinking a little too much. Games and minutes on the field should turn this unit into a good one down the road.
Stony Point has nine returning starters on offense. They rotate quarterbacks Aiden Barrera and Damian Lindley every other play. Against Harker Heights last week, they combined for 362 passing and four touchdowns. Lindley is more of a threat to run with 50-yards rushing but Barrera had the lone rushing touchdown.
On offense, they run out of the one and two backs sets and use the zone reads, where the quarterback holds on to the ball deciding to either keep it or hand it off to the back. Stony Point likes to run a counter off the zone read and the Tigers did a great job stopping them last year.
Wide receiver Justin Gamble who runs a 4.4 caught 19 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. “He is the best player on their team, very athletic with good hands and is great running the ball after the catch. Their game plan is to get Gamble the ball and they run him out of the backfield some in a two-back set in just about every position in the backfield,” said Rodney Southern.
Running back James Gray had 96 yards rushing and 31 yards receiving scoring two touchdowns against Heights. Against the Tigers last year they spread the field a lot and ran more than expected with an empty backfield. With a young team on offense they weren’t able to capitalize on the Tigers four turnovers with only 12 points scored.
Four of the five starters are back on offensive line and they are good size in the 250-260 pound range and are well coached. “This team doesn’t make mistakes. They don’t turn it over. They have some players that can really run and it makes them dangerous. Athletically we are better everywhere on defense. We are young and can’t get caught watching the game. Sometimes those first year varsity players hyperventilate those first few series,” said Southern.
Gamble who scored 9 touchdowns as a sophomore last season might be the best athlete on either team. Their defense is fast and mobile with five returning starters. They return two outstanding defensive tackles Michael Ezimako and Stacy Anderson who free up the linebackers. Cornerback Jamel Anderson 5-8, 170, 4.4 is one of the best Belton will face this season.
They run a 4-3 as their base set. They play some man coverage when it is third and long and run some quarters. The majority of their coverage is cover four in the secondary. “They are well coached and the d-line is very athletic. One of their corners can flat out play,” said offensive coordinator David Brewer.
Belton is still trying to sort out their offensive line because in some of the scrimmages Shane Stafford’s back side was open. Belton has four experienced linemen, and four experienced players in the backfield with Stafford one of the best athletes on either team moved to quarterback.
Newcomers Kavan Johnson at running back and Olajuwan Taylor are very talented but it is their first game on varsity. Belton is going to have to do two things better in 2013 – run the ball, and cut down on turnovers.
They have the backfield to eat up the clock and score points. For the Tigers’ young back seven, the game Friday is a much tougher test than last year’s veteran group faced. Stony Point lost seven games by a total of 30 points last season. So Belton isn’t the only team in the area to lose a few games in the final minutes.
It is nice to win the early games but they don’t matter when district comes around. Belton has to find out who wants to play under the lights at linebacker and three secondary spots, and wide receiver opposite of Andre Ewing.