By Tony Adams
Plenty of great things that came out of Friday’s win against Stony Point, starting off with Davion Peoples’ 70-yard run around the right side.
“It was a strange game offensively for sure,” Belton head coach Bob Shipley said. “We certainly didn’t play like an offense that scored 70 points. The three fumbles in the fourth quarter led to easy touchdowns although we certainly weren’t trying to run up the score. We played well at times. I thought Davion and Bryce (Julian) both played well. Our offensive line didn’t play their best game. We’ll have to continue to improve and I think we will. Peyton (Mansell) made some nice throws and we had some receivers make some nice catches and runs after the catch.”
The Tigers offense is hitting the right cylinders over the first three games. They lead District 8-6A in rushing (803 yards, the next closest being Harker Heights at 572), are second in passing (568 yards, Ellison leading the district at 1,019) and are second in total offense (1,371, 27 yards behind Ellison).
Mansell is 49-of-62 for 568 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT, with the best completion percentage in the district (79 percent). He has added 256 yards on 25 yards and 3 TDs, third currently in district. Peoples is second in the district with 50 carries and 272 yards. He leads the district with five touchdowns. Julian is fourth in district with 228 yards on 27 carries and also has three scores.
Weston Lucas has been Mansell’s favorite short target, connecting 18 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Logan Collins is his favorite long target, connecting seven times for 204 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 29-yard average per catch.
The first team defense allowed just 14 points in the ball game and the second team gave up seven points. Going up against run-first offenses, the Tigers have given up a district-high 708 yards rushing. But they have not let the passing game get the best of them, having surrendered 360 yards in passing. That number was highlighted by a season-low 17 yards against Stony Point.
“I think we’re coming along nicely on defense,” Shipley said. “It’s frustrating that our offense gave up as many points as our starting defense. We need to continue to improve but I think we have a chance to be a really good defense. We played pretty aggressively, which is always nice to see.”
“Strengths from defense Friday night were causing turnovers and giving our offense a short field,” Belton defensive coordinator Bryce Monsen said. “We still need to be more consistent in our tackling and gap responsibilities. We still give up to many big plays.”
Special teams had a mixed performance, with Nyle Tabat hitting 10-of-10 extra points. Mansell had a good day punting and had some very deep kickoffs. But special teams struggled with kickoff placement.
“Stony Point had some really talented return guys,” Shipley said. “We did struggle with our kick placement. When the guys are expecting a deep right kick and it goes mid-range left that leaves us exposed. We’ve got to do a better job with that as well as getting off of blocks. All it takes is one guy to leave his lane or get held up on a block and you can be in trouble when the kick is not where our coverage is heading. Nyle did a nice job. We thought we’d give Peyton a chance at a long field goal but he didn’t hit it good. We did have good coverage on the field goal, which was good to see. The fake punt was executed nicely (Mansell-to-Cameron Davis for 31 yards). We haven’t run many fakes in the last couple of years but we have a few in our hip pocket for the right place and time.
The Round Rock Dragons area coming off a much-needed win against Smithson Valley 20-14. Jeff Cheatham’s teams are always loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.
“Quarterback Marc Reed is the real deal,” Shipley said. “He’s a good passer, but is an excellent runner. He makes them go so we certainly need to focus on containing him. We’d rather see him throw it than run it but we have to have a good balance with our run and pass defense. We can’t let receivers get behind us and we’ll have to rally to the ball to try and slow them down. They can score a lot of points for sure. They’re led upfront by Texas Tech commit Tyler Casteneda. He’s a great lineman and is certainly their bell cow up front.”
“Round Rock offensively brings a lot to the table,” Monsen said. “They are big and physical. They execute at a high level. They have a tremendous running game and passing game. But, their biggest threat is their quarterback. He is very good and makes a lot of plays with both his feet and his arm. We must also stop their back. He runs hard and plays with a lot of intensity. They also have two receivers with big play capabilities.”
The Dragons defense is very talented upfront, led by defensive end James Lynch.
“They do a good job defensively,” Shipley said. “They run a 3-4 defense and are focused on stopping the run and not letting anyone get behind their secondary. They run to the ball really well. I’ve been impressed with their 3 defensive linemen. Their nose guard does a really good job of controlling the inside gaps. Defensive end James Lynch is a great player. He’s committed to TCU and thy only recruit defensive players that are studs. We’ll certainly have to try and slow him down.”
With three teams in District 8-6A playing on Thursday night, it gives the team an extra day of rest before the game against Heights (who get the same day to prepare, playing Thursday as well). A win is paramount for momentum going into the district schedule.
“It would be really nice to have the momentum of a 3-game winning streak going into district but the reality of the situation is that these games don’t determine any playoff representatives,” Shipley said. “It’s an opportunity for our kids to compete and play a really good team, which is what we need because there aren’t any easy games in our district. Our preseason schedule is much tougher this year and I really think that will help us in district play.”