Turnovers spoil home district opener against Cove 42-21
By Tony Adams
Friday night at Tiger Field brought forth Belton’s second game of their District 12-6A schedule, as they Tigers hosted Copperas Cove.
Belton held Cove off the scoreboard in the first quarter. The Bulldawgs scored 21 points in the second quarter and took advantage Belton miscues to win 42-21. Cove moved to 4-2 overall on the season and 2-0 in District 12-6A play. Belton dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in district.
The Tigers were able to get consecutive pass plays from Shane Stafford to Kavan Johnson for one yard and Brandon Rhoads for six yards. Belton was unable to convert the third down and three play, forcing Haygen Tibbetts to punt. Tre Powell returned the punt to midfield.
Manny Harris and the Cove offense took to the ground, as LeDarian Johnson pounded out five yards and Trent Canion gained a yard before Harris his DeVon Hopkins-Phelps for a 9-yard pass play for a first down. Ryan Johnson disrupted Harris’ first down pass on the Belton 35 and stopped Canion in his tracks. Kofi McDonald and Tevin Jones halted the drive with a stop of Johnson’s reception for no gain, Jayson Stanley’s punt went out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Belton only moved the ball five yards on the next drive, courtesy of a Kavan Johnson run, forcing another Tibbetts punt. Cove took over at its own 45.
Harris connected with Tre Powell on a 33-yard pass to the Belton 9. Harris dropped back to pass on first down and goal. Carlton Shanks III read the play, stepped in to intercept the pass on the goal line and raced 40 yards before he was knocked out of bounds.
The Tigers were unable to take advantage of the turnover, with three consecutive incomplete passes. Tibbetts’ punt was returned by Shamad Lomax to the Belton 40.
Cove worked the ball down to the Belton 18, setting up a 35-yard field goal attempt from Stanley. He pushed the kick wide right, giving the Tigers back the ball, first and 10 at the Belton 20.
Belton mounted a drive that bridged into the second quarter, as the Tigers’ ground game got churning. Olajuwon Taylor, Kavan Johnson, Stafford and Davion Peoples chewed up 13 plays and 45 yards. Stafford also hit Rhoads for 10 yards, which led to a 33-yard field goal attempt from Blake Odell. The Belton kicker also pushed the kick wide right, giving the Dawgs the ball first and 10 at their 20.
The teams traded punts before Cove took over at their own 43. Following a four-yard gain by D’mani Peapealalo, LeDarian Johnson broke free for a 53-yard TD run. Stanley’s extra point made the score 7-0 with 7:31 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers took the ball from their own 26 to the 48, 18 of the yards courtesy of Kavan Johnson’s driving leg-strength. On first down and 10, Stafford was hit on his way to the ground and fumbled, though his knee appeared to touch the ground first. Jaylen Waters recovered the fumble and rambled 38 yards for a touchdown. Stanley’s point-after kick made the score 14-0 with 5:06 remaining in the first half.
Belton did not let the turnover fester in their minds for long, as they got right back to work. A 13-yard gain by Peoples, a 23-yard run from Kavan Johnson and a 10-yard pass play from Stafford-to-Rhoads set up Kavan Johnson’s 4-yard TD run. Odell’s extra point capped off a 10-play, 65-yard drive to make the score 14-7 with 2:04 remaining in the first half.
Cove wasted no time answering Belton’s score with a five-play, 55-yard drive of their own. Harris connected on back-to-back strikes to Derris Prater for 24 and 23 yards respectively set up Waters for a 1-yard TD run to make the score 21-7 with 54 seconds left in the half.
The Tigers did not go gently into halftime, as they marched from their own 34 down to the red zone. Stafford hit Coby Potvin with a 17-yard pass and then found Tibbetts for a 10-yard completion, which a late hit was not called after Tibbetts had already stepped onto the sidelines at the Cove 29. A pass interference penalty set up the Tigers at the Cove 14. Stafford found Rhoads for a 5-yard completion with five seconds to go in the half. Stafford’s pass to Rhoads in the end zone fell incomplete with 0.9 seconds.
Belton head coach Bob Shipley trotted on Odell for a 26-yard field goal try. The Tigers called timeout and switched up the play, sending the offense back onto the field. Cove head coach Jack Welch called timeout after seeing the Belton offensive set. Belton and Cove each called timeout one more time before the final play, a Stafford incompletion intended for Tonee Muldrew. Cove led 21-7 at halftime.
Prater led off the second half with a 50-yard kick return, starting the Cove drive at the Belton 42. Harris hit LeDerian Johnson for a 20-yard pass to set up Canion’s 23-yard TD run.
The Tigers answered the Cove score with a touchdown of their own. Stafford hit Tibbetts with a 10-yard pass and Deandra Marshall on a 38-yard pass play. Kavan Johnson scored from 15 yards out and Odell’s extra point made the score 28-14 with 7:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Lomax struck again for Cove, this time with a 78-yard kickoff return down to the Belton 10. Two plays later, Harris hit Isaiah McGriff for a 10-yard TD reception. Stanley’s extra-point made it 35-14 with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter.
Stafford called his own number at the start of the next drive, picking up 17 yards to get down to the Belton 46. The Tigers could not advance the ball and punted the ball back to Cove.
Cove went three-and-out on their next drive and punted the ball to Coby Potvin, who was interfered with on a fair-catch call. The drive started at the Belton 49 and was a fruitful one. Kavan Johnson’s blasting leg-drives pushed the Cove piles and gained 14 yards on three consecutive carries. On fourth down and nine at the Cove 36, Stafford hit Marshall on a sideline pass pattern for 16 yards to the Cove 20. Four plays later, Stafford hit Potvin for a 4-yard TD reception. Odell’s extra-point made the score 35-21 with 27 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Dawgs punted the ball back to Belton early in the fourth quarter and the Tigers mounted a drive. Rhoads made a cutback run to pick up 25 yards to the Cove 46. Kavan Johnson cut the distance to the end zone in half with a 23-yard run. Following a pair of passes yielding three yards, the Tigers faced a third down and seven situation at the Cove 20. Taking the snap out of shotgun formation, the ball went over Stafford’s head and the ball rolled towards midfield. Stafford could not fall on or scoop up the ball. Justin Joe scooped up the ball and ran to the end zone. The play was officially an 80-yard fumble return for a touchdown and the turning point for Belton. Stanley’s kick made the score 42-21 with 7:24 remaining in the game.
Michael Hays took over for Harris on the next Cove drive. LaDarian Johnson rushed the ball twice before Waters ran 44 yards down to the Belton 31. On the next play, Hays was hit and fumbled. Hunter Garrett was right there to fall on the ball, giving Belton another shot to climb back into the ball game.
Kavan Johnson had runs of 4 and 15 yards to set Belton up at midfield. On first and 10, Stafford dropped back to pass and found a lurking Elijah Jordan for an interception. The turnover all but ended the Tigers hopes for the night, as Cove bled out the clock.
“Our offense gave up a touchdown in the first half,” Shipley said. “And then a long kickoff return. After that the long draw for the touchdown. I thought our defense played well in the first half. Well enough to keep us within striking distance for sure. In the second half, our defense continued to play well and to me, the kickoff coverage gave up a touchdown. Then the offense gave up the touchdown. It’s like coach Welch told me: if it wasn’t for those two scoop-and-scores, it’s an entirely different ballgame.”
“Honestly, it’s the little things,” said Tevin Jones. “It sounds repetitive, but when you watch film you see it. If it’s a 2-yard loss or a long run. Defensive, we played our keys and did the little things.”
Killeen is on deck for the Tigers on Thursday, before the bye week.
“I don’t mind the short week,” Shipley said. “I can’t wait. I can’t get back on the field fast enough. I want our guys to redeem ourselves on the field.”