By Tony Adams
The Belton Tigers need all hands on deck to support the team on Friday, as they look to try and get closer to locking up playoff spot against the Killeen Ellison Eagles Friday night at Tiger Field.
The Senior Night festivities start somewhere between 6:30-7:00 p.m. and game time is 7:30 p.m.
The game will be broadcasted on ESPN Central Texas (100.9 FM, 1330 AM and 1660.com under the HS FB broadcasts section) on 7 p.m. Ward Whites, Chuck Douglas and Your Boy Q will have the broadcast duties.
Last Thursday’s win was a solid one and Belton head coach Bob Shipley was able to provide his reserve players with some valuable playing time.
“I think it was our best overall team effort of the year,” Shipley said. “We played well in all three phases last week and that’s encouraging. If we continue to do that, we’ll be fine. It’s always good to get everyone in the game. We’ve had a lot of kids step up this season because of injuries and they’ve done a good job. Anytime we can get non-starters in the game it’s good for the locker room atmosphere as well as the valuable experience gained from the playing time.”
CJ Jones had a standout game, especially in the first quarter. When his motor is running he is one of your game changers on defense.
“He seems to have matured a lot as a player,” Shipley said. “He has always had a motor, but sometimes he played undisciplined. When he plays within himself and takes care of his responsibility instead of just playing on instinct, he really plays well. We need him to continue to do that. Coach (Derrick) Stacks has done a great job of developing CJ as a player this year. It’s been fun to watch.”
Ellison is a team that Belton has played tough over the past few seasons. Taking over a team a couple of years back that was mired in a long losing streak, Ellison athletic director/head coach Trent Gregory has a great job with the Eagles and has lifted the program back into a good place within KISD, both as the A.D. and head coach.
“Trent does a great job. It’s been great watching him make a difference in those kids,” Shipley said. “He has them believing and playing at a high level. He has weathered the storm and is reaping the benefits of the hard work they’ve put in over there. He’s a great coach and man. I have an awful lot of respect for him as a coach and a friend.”
Through the 7-On-7 program, many of us have seen the growth of the Eagles in the passing game and the pass-coverage. Carl Robinson III embodies the Eagles’ spirit as a savvy game manager and is careful with the ball, spreading the ball all over the field. Z’Xavier Green, Jyaire Shorter and Ta’von Gwynn are all in the top 10 in receptions in district in receptions and Ellison’s offense is tops in 8-6A in passing. Darrell Peterkine gives them a change of pace at running back and they have a solid offensive line. Belton’s defense is second against the pass through eight games.
“Ellison’s offense is rarely shutdown,” Shipley said. “You try to contain it as well as you possibly can. Robinson is a good dual-threat quarterback. He can beat you through the air or with his feet. We have to do a good job of containing them and not give up big plays.”
Peyton Mansell is very efficient passing and can extend plays with his legs. Davion Peoples and Bryce Julian grind up a ton of yardage on the ground and through the air. The one area that has been a knock on Ellison is rush defense, which they are seventh in district by over 40 yards per contest (238.5 yards per game).
“It’s always critical for us to run the ball,” Shipley said. “Thankfully we have a good quarterback and good receivers that can help loosen up a defense but any team that wins consistently has to be able to run the ball. We’re very balanced offensively, which is the goal. There’s around 150 yards difference for the season in our yardage running versus passing this season (1,885 rushing, 1,728 passing).”
The Tigers’ receivers and tight ends always give Peyton solid options in the passing patterns and the offensive line has blocked well for Mansell. In the running game, it is very important have the line and receiving corps fully engaged in both the passing and running games.
“We work really hard at blocking with our receivers,” Shipley said. “Coach (Mike) Morgan demands that they block full speed every day In practice. One guy not taking his block seriously can cost us a big play. We tell them that every block could be the game-winning block.”
Friday night is also Senior Night and is a big night for the parents and players. Positive emotions from a pregame festivity can be a huge motivator on the field.
“It’s their last home game. That in and of itself is a great motivator to play well,” Shipley said. “This senior class has been a good group. They have worked hard to help us have a legitimate chance to win every game we’ve played this year. I think they’ll leave it all out there on the field one last time.”
Fan support could really be a boost for the team in the Tigers’ final home game and playoff push. We have had a couple late-season games in your tenure where the home fans have really boosted the morale. A noisy, packed Tiger Field will certainly energize the team
“The fans have come through for us big-time the last two years and we certainly need for them to this year as well,” Shipley said. “This is a great community. Belton supports its kids as well as any community, so I have a lot of confidence that that won’t change this week because we sure need their help.”