By Tony Adams
The first half of Belton Tigers’ opener at Tiger Field against Stony Point had an arena football-like feel to it. The combined 59 points had both Belton coach Rodney Southern and Stony Point coach Craig Chessher pacing the sidelines.
Especially since the two teams combined for 29 points in 48 minutes in 2012.
The second half was no different, as the teams combined for 43 points in the second half. Stony Point pulled away and defeated Belton 56-46 in a closely contested pre-district battle Friday.
Kavan Johnson got the scoring started for Belton, capping off a five play, 75-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to make the score 7-0.
Belton converted an onside kick opportunity, with Belton kicker Nick Amato recovering his own kick at the Stony Point 38-yard line. Belton worked the ball down to the Stony Point 7-yard line. On fourth down and goal, Amato attempted a 27-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Stony Point and returned by Nick Njuku to the Stony Point 49-yard line.
Stony Point converted the blocked kick into a four play, 51-yard scoring drive, capped by a 7-yard touchdown run from quarterback Damion Lindley to tie the score at 7-7 with 5:50 to play in the first quarter.
Belton responded with a six play, 75-yard scoring drive of their own, which Belton quarterback Shane Stafford broke around left end for a 70-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-7 Belton.
Eager to get back on the field, Stony Point worked a drive from their own 16-yard line into an 84-yard, nine play scoring drive, with James Gray plunging through the line for a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score again, this time at 14-14.
Johnson set up the next Belton score, as the Big Red running back busted through the line for a 46-run to the Stony Point 20-yard line. Unable to work the ball down to the goal line, Amato hit a 42-yard field goal attempt to give Belton at 17-14 lead with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter.
Belton held Stony Point to 25 yards on eight plays in the next drive, forcing the visitors to punt the ball back to Belton on it’s own 18-yard line.
The Tigers wasted very little time in scoring, as Stafford set the drive up with a 16-yard scramble to the Belton 42-yard line. It set the stage for a 44-yard touchdown run from Johnson, capping off a seven play, 82-yard drive in just 1:27 and Belton took a 10-point lead at 24-14.
Stony Point was held to a three-and-out drive and punted the ball back to Belton. On third down and eight yards to go on the Stony Point 45-yard line, Stafford dropped back to pass and the inside pass rush got to Stafford as he released the pass into the waiting arms of Stony Point’s Michael Ezimako for a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown, to pull Stony Point back to within three points at 24-21.
Belton’s next drive only needed one play to hit paydirt. Brandon Rhoads hauled the ball 65-yards in 10 seconds straight to the end zone and re-established Belton’s 10-point lead at 31-21.
Johnson recovered the Tigers’ onside kick attempt at the Stony Point 48-yard line. However, Belton could not advance the ball and were forced to punt the ball to the Stony Point 13-yard line.
Stony Point made the Tigers pay with an eight play, 87-yard drive, capped by a 37-yard touchdown run by quarterback Aidan Barrera to return the deficit to three at 31-28 to round out the first half.
Following the second half kick off, the dual quarterback system of Stony Point went back to work. Lindley hit Joseph Marrero for a 25-yard gain to set up Stony Point’s next score. Barrera found the end zone again, this time from 18 yards and Stony Point took the lead 35-31.
After a Belton three-and-out, a shanked punt set up Stony Point with a first and 10 on Belton’s 47-yard line. Three plays later, Lindley hit Marrero for a 24-yard touchdown and Stony Point extended their lead to 11 points, 42-31, with 6:29 to play in the third quarter.
After Belton had a three-and-out on the following drive, they punted the ball back to Stony Point on Belton’s 45-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Barrera was stripped of the ball by Rodarius Birks and the fumble was recovered by Matt Chapman on the Belton 48-yard line.
The Tigers methodically moved the ball down the field toward the end zone. Nine plays and 55 yards later, Brandon Rhoads pounded the ball into the end zone from 10-yards. Stafford found Johnson to complete the two-point conversion and made the score 42-39.
Stony Point caught a huge break on the kickoff when Marrero found daylight and returned the kick 59 yards to the Belton 38-yard line. In eight plays and 38 yards, Barrera hit the scoreboard again with a four-yard score and Stony Point took a 10-point lead at 49-39.
Stafford’s resiliency showed on the next drive. Only picking up two yards on the first two plays, Stafford delivered a shuffle pass to Johnson, who bolted 68 yards to the end zone to give the Tigers another shot, bringing the score back to 49-46 with 7:32 remaining in the game.
Stony Point was not flustered by Belton’s tenacity, as they took the next drive 75 yards on eight plays, eating 4:15 off the clock. Barrera put the final score up on Stony Point’s side of the board with a 17-yard touchdown run to make the score 56-46.
Belton was held to six yards on their final drive and Stony Point ran out the clock to seal the victory.
“They made more plays in the second half then we did,” said Southern. “We played well enough in the first half. We put them on a short field four times. With young kids, you can’t do that.”
Southern took the blame for shortcomings of the team, though there were many positive moments.