By Tony Adams
The 2015 Belton Tigers football team had the propensity to find ways to play from behind to win ball games. Four of five of their wins last season came when the team was behind at some point in the 48-minute parameter.
The 2016 Belton 7-on-7 team did much of the same at the Adidas Texas 7-on-7 State Football Tournament at Veterans Park in College Station last Friday and Saturday. The team won Pool F and the opening championship bracket game, winning each game in come-from-behind fashion.
However, Belton led and then trailed District 8-6A rival Harker Heights in the second round game. A late drive fell short and the Tigers 7-on-7 team had their state title at the hands of Heights.
Plenty of yards and touchdowns were scored on the 45-yard field, as 64 of Texas’ most talented Class 6A teams looked for a coveted championship that all the teams had worked since the end of spring football for.
Belton outlasts Clear Brook in four overtimes, 75-67
The tenacity and fortitude of the team was on display early as they took on Friendswood Clear Brook in the Pool F opener. The Tigers struck first, as Iowa commit Peyton Mansell found Davion Peoples for a 6-yard touchdown pass. The duo connected for the one-point conversion and Belton led 7-0.
The Wolverines tied the game two plays later on a 5-yard pass. Hunter Garrett intercepted the conversion to keep Belton in the lead 7-6.
Following a 15-yard pass from Mansell to Chandler Vela, the Tiger quarterback found Lane Holmes on a corner pattern covering 30 yards for a score. The conversion pass was intercepted, keeping the score 13-6.
Clear Brook scored from 30 yards away, but missed the conversion leaving the game tied at 13-13. Belton answered the score with a 12-yard pass from Mansell to Holmes. Mansell went back to Holmes for the conversion point. The Wolverines answered back with an 8-yard pass and successful conversion tie the game at 20-20. Mansell hit Vela in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown and found Remington Lutz for a successful conversion. Clear Brook responded with a 26-yard score, but Bryan Thomas intercepted the conversion. Belton retained a 27-26 lead at the half.
The Tigers stretched the lead back to seven points, as they took their second half opening drive the distance. Mansell hit Peoples streaking past double coverage for a 16-yard touchdown. The conversion failed, keeping the score 33-26. Three plays later, the Wolverines scored from five yards out and successfully converted the one-point play to tie the game at 33-33.
Belton held onto the ball during the next drive for five plays, wrapping the drive on a 5-yard pass from Mansell to John Taggart. The Tigers missed the conversion, keeping the score 39-33. Four plays later, Clear Brook scored from 16-yards away and missed their own conversion.
With the score tied at 39-39, Mansell drove the Tigers down to the 1-yard line and Logan Collins’ reception gave the Tigers the lead once again. The successful conversion pass from Mansell to Weston Lucas gave the Tigers a 46-39 lead. The Wolverines drove inside the last five minutes of regulation and hit pay dirt on a 13-yard pass, hitting the conversion try to even the score at 46-46.
Each team had a chance to score inside the last two minutes, but came up short.
The game was sent to overtime. The ball was placed at the 15-yard line and possessions alternated in overtime, much like the NCAA rules.
Clear Brook got the ball first and scored on a 13-yard pass three plays into the first overtime. The conversion was successful, giving the Wolverines a 53-46 lead.
Belton chipped away at the Wolverines’ defense, as Mansell threw a ball underneath to Taggart for 13 yards. Clear Brook forced Mansell into a 4-second violation to give the Tigers a third and goal situation on the 2-yard line. Mansell dropped back on the next play and found Lucas on the backline for a 2-yard touchdown. The pair teamed up to convert the extra-point pass, tying the game at 53-53 and sending the game into a second overtime.
The Tigers got the ball to start the second overtime and wasted no time putting it back into the end zone. One play after Mansell hit Collins with a 14-yard pass down to the 1-yard line, Mansell found Taggart underneath again for a 1-yard pass and six points. By rule, the teams were forced to go for two-point conversions from the second overtime on. With the ball placed at the 10-yard line, the Tigers successfully converted a pass from Mansell to Holmes to take an eight-point lead, 61-53.
Clear Brook took their second overtime possession and cashed it into eight points of their own. Following a 4-second violation, the Wolverines scored on a 15-yard pass and two-point conversion to tie the score at 61-61 and force a third overtime.
The Wolverines were given a gift on a phantom pass interference penalty on Belton and scored on the next play from seven yards out. The two-point conversion was thwarted on a pass defense by Justin Buuck, keeping Clear Brook with a six-point lead, 67-61.
Belton responded with a Mansell, on a third down and three, throwing a high ball to Peoples in the end zone. Peoples out jumped the defense in the corner and pulled down the tying score. The two-point conversion was barely missed, as Mansell threw a ball a bit too wide to a diving Vela in the back corner, keeping the score tied at 67-67.
Belton got the ball first in the fourth overtime and by that time, many of the surrounding games were finished. So the back of the end zone had around 400 very intrigued spectators. Mansell went back to Peoples again in the right corner from eight yards out. Peoples out jumped the coverage again, wowing the gathered crowd and pulled in the ball for the go-ahead score. Mansell found Holmes for the two-point conversion, giving Belton an eight-point lead and putting the pressure on the Belton defense to make a game-clinching stop.
Clear Brook gained five yards on the first play and Belton found the key to lock down the Wolverines’ offense. On second down, Clear Brook tried a post pattern and the pass was knocked down by Zaki Hill. On third down, the Wolverines tried to go over the middle, only to find John Harvey and Garrison Vaughn there to swat the ball away. Clear Brook was forced to go for the end zone on fourth down and the pass was dropped in the back of the end zone to end the game 75-67.
Mansell was 38 of 47 for 366 yards and 11 touchdowns. Vela had 10 catches for 85 yards, Peoples had six catches for 77 yards, Taggart has eight catches for 67 yards, Lucas had seven catches for 62 yards and Holmes had three catches for 51 yards. 3/51. The Tigers were 8-of-11 on point-after pass attempts.
Tigers overcomes rough start, down 12 three times, beats Lancaster 28-26
After an hour rest from their four-OT feud with Clear Brook, Belton took on a Tiger of another breed: Lancaster.
The two teams locked up in a defensive battle early. Mansell was intercepted three times in the first three drives, with one going back for a score. Lancaster jumped out to a 12-0 lead before Mansell Vela for a 14-yard touchdown. Mansell found Riley Brown for the conversion to cut Lancaster’s lead to five, 12-7.
After a Lancaster 27-yard touchdown and one-point conversion, Belton answered with a 10-yard touchdown from Mansell to Lucas and conversion pass to Taggart to slice the Lancaster lead back to five at the half, 19-14.
Lancaster stretched their lead back to 12 in the first drive of the second half, 26-14. After the first Belton drive of the second half stalled on the 28-yard line, Lancaster drove down to the 3-yard line. On first and goal, Joseph Bledsoe stepped in front of an end zone pattern to give Belton a much-needed interception to give the team momentum.
After the teams traded possessions, a 22-yard pass from Mansell to Lutz set up a 7-yard score from Mansell to Peoples. The duo matched up again for the conversion and Belton scratched back to within five points, 26-21.
The defense responded with a three-and-out Lancaster series, inducing an incompletion, a loss-of-down false start penalty and a slick pass defense from Mark Mebane.
With time winding down, Mansell found Holmes in the back of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown to give Belton the lead. Mansell went back to Peoples for the conversion pass and Belton had a 28-26 lead going into the final defensive stand.
The disruptive Belton defense showed its grit on the final stand. The pesky defenders forced Lancaster into an offensive pass interference penalty on first down, gave up 10 yards on second down and the covered receivers to where Lancaster’s quarterback had nowhere to pass to, forcing a 4-second violation and essentially ending the game. Belton picked up 25 yards on the next two plays to milk the game clock.
Mansell was 26 of 43 for 283 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. Peoples and Vela each had six catches and 52 yards, Collins had five catches for 47 yards, Lucas has four catches for 33 yards, Taggart has two catches for 30 yards and Lutz has two catches for 29 yards. 4 INTs. Belton was 4 of 4 in extra point conversions.
Belton trails late, recovers with two touchdowns in last five minutes to upend Lufkin 39-32 to win Pool F
Belton took on the Lufkin Panthers in the final game of Pool F. The game had championship bracket implications, as both teams were 2-0 going into the game.
The Tigers wasted little time chipping away at the Panthers’ defense. Mansell used plays to Lucas, Vela and Taggart to set up a 7-yard strike to Peoples. Mansell found Lucas in the back of the end zone for the conversion, giving the Tigers an opening 7-0 lead.
Lufkin answered with a touchdown and conversion, only for the Tigers to move quickly back down for another score. After a perfectly placed 35-yard pass from Mansell to Collins, Mansell hit Holmes with an 8-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. Mansell went back to Collins for the conversion and Belton led once again, 14-7.
The Panthers answered with a 30-yard touchdown, but missed the conversion. The teams then traded possessions and the Tigers got the ball back off of a Hunter Garrett interception. Mansell took advantage of the Lufkin miscue with an 8-yard pass to Lucas. The conversion failed, but Belton kept the lead, 20-13.
Lufkin scored touchdowns on each side of the break to take a 25-20 lead early in the second half.
Belton answered the bell after the second score with a 1-yard touchdown to Taggart. But the extra point attempt failed, leaving Belton with a single point lead, 26-25.
Five plays later, Lufkin cashed in with a 2-yard touchdown. Bryan Thomas nearly intercepted the conversion attempt, leaving Lufkin with a six-point lead 32-26.
The Tigers were methodical with the next drive, going back to Peoples for completion of 16 and 10 yards respectively. Mansell hit Collins streaking down the middle for a 12-yard score. Mansell hit Holmes in the left corner for the conversion to give the Tigers a 33-32 lead.
After Garrett intercepted a pass the play following the conversion and the Tigers were stopped in three downs on offensive, the defense was pressed into another late stop. The Panthers had four shots inside the 10-yard line to score. After pass defenses by Mebane and Vaughn, the Panthers were faced with fourth down and goal to go on the 1-yard line. Buuck dove in front of a Lufkin receiver and swatted the ball away to give Belton the ball back.
Mansell wasted little time inside the final minute getting the Tigers down the field. After a 30-yard pass to Collins and 14-yard pass to Holmes, Mansell found Holmes for the insurance six points. The conversion failed, opening the door for a Lufkin Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game. Vaughn snagged the wobbling duck pass and secured the game and the Pool F title for the Tigers.
Mansell was 30 of 42 for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Collins has three receptions for 77 yards, Peoples had six catches for 72 yards and Taggart had six catches for 54 yards. Belton was 3 of 6 in extra point conversions.
Tigers open championship bracket with come-from-behind win over Austin Bowie 38-34
After a much-needed rest, the Tigers came back to Veterans Park for the championship bracket playoff opener against the Austin Bowie Bulldogs on Saturday morning.
It took three plays for the Tigers to hit pay dirt, as Mansell hit Peoples on a dead sprint to the end zone from 27 yards. The extra point failed, keeping the score at 6-0.
The Bulldogs, aided by a questionable pass interference call, scored on their first drive to take a 7-6 lead.
After an 8-yard completion, Mansell found Taggart sprinting down the right side and let a pass go into the teeth of a stiff morning wind. The pass ended up intercepted and Bowie cashed into six plays later to take a 14-6 lead.
Unfazed, Belton’s offense went immediately back to work. After an offensive pass interference penalty and incompletion, Mansell hit Lucas sprinting over the middle for a 35-yard completion. He went up top to Peoples for a 10-yard touchdown and to Vela for the point-after pass, drawing the Tigers back to within a point, 14-13.
Bowie answered with a 3-yard touchdown pass and a successful conversion attempt to take a 21-13 lead, only to have Belton answer back with a 3-yard touchdown by Peoples. Belton swatted Bowie’s attempt to score to close the first half, as Thomas knocked away a pass in the end zone. The Bulldogs led the Tigers 21-19 going into the second half.
Bowie scored on a 17-yard pass and successful point-after attempt to start the second half, taking a 28-19 lead. Belton answered with a 7-play drive, scoring on a 6-yard pass from Mansell to Peoples. The Mansell-to-Holmes point-after pass brought the Tigers to within two points at 28-26. The Bulldogs scored five plays later, but missed the conversion to keep the lead, 34-26.
Off of a 30-yard completion to Taggart, Mansell found Lucas in the end zone for a 15-yard strike. The two-point conversion failed, keeping the Bulldogs out in front 34-32 and pressing the Tigers defense into another much-needed stop.
The Bulldogs got away with a push off on a 31-yard completion, putting Bowie within striking distance of the end zone with four chances to score. After three incompletions, one on an excellent diving catch by a Bulldog receiver, Joseph Bledsoe intercepted the ball in the end zone to halt the drive and give the Tigers’ offense a final shot.
After a 4-yard completion, Mansell and Peoples caught the Bulldogs’ defense napping. Mansell loaded up his cannon and lofted a ball Peoples grabbed at the 20 and raced downfield for the 41-yard go-ahead scoring catch. The extra point failed, keeping the game at 38-34.
Bowie mounted a final drive and once again, had chances to score, this time five chances inside the 20-yard line. Mebane, Harvey, Vaughn, Hill, Garrett, Buuck and Bledsoe were all over the place, disrupting the Bulldogs’ pass pattern. Bledsoe intercepted the final pass of the game to secure the win and move Belton into a showdown with District 8-6A rival Harker Heights.
Mansell was 18 of 22 for 268 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Peoples had five receptions for 89 yards and five scores. Lucas had three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Tigers joust with Knights, Heights emerges with 24-20 win
The Belton Tigers’ and Harker Heights Knights’ 7-on-7 teams were very familiar with one another, playing against each other in district play and in state qualifying tournaments. Belton defeated Heights in the semifinals of the Belton SQT and the Knights ended up traveling to Abilene to qualify late in the season.
Heights, who eliminated Houston Heights moments before the game, scored on the fourth play of the game with a 19-yard pass. The Knights’ conversion failed, keeping the score at 6-0.
Belton answered the score with a touchdown of their own. On a 9-play drive, Mansell hit Holmes in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard tally. Mansell went to Vela underneath for the one-point conversion, giving the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Robert Gray hit JaQuan Tillis with a 2-yard strike to give Heights a 12-7 lead. The point-after pass failed.
Mansell’s 20-yard pass to Collins and 15-yard pass to Vela set up a 10-yard strike to Holmes to give the Tigers the lead once again. Mansell’s pass to Collins extended the lead to two points, 14-12.
The Knights retook the lead on a 1-yard touchdown pass by Gray. The conversion try was intercepted by Hill in the end zone. The teams traded possessions before the halftime break, which Harker Heights led at 19-14.
Belton came out of the break quickly and took the lead. After a 20-yard pass to Peoples, Mansell hit Vela on the fly for a 25-yard touchdown. The conversion failed, keeping the score at 20-18.
Heights attempted an odd set up on the next drive, as they stacked four receivers to the right side on a diamond shape. The Belton defense was not fooled, as Hill stepped in front of one of the Knights’ receivers for an interception.
Belton could not capitalize on the pick, as they went three and out, despite an excellent diving effort by Vela on the 10-yard line on a pass that one step beyond the sideline.
A pass interference penalty aided Heights’ final scoring drive, as Gray found Tillis for a 7-yard score. The conversion failed, but Heights took a four-point lead, 24-20.
Mansell connected with Lucas for a 7-yard completion, but an incompletion and a drop ended the Tigers hopes to advance in the tournament.
Mansell was 14 of 26 for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Vela had four catches for 63 yards. Holmes had three catches for 23 yards. The Tigers were 2 of 3 in extra point conversions.
“We really should have beat these guys,” Mansell said. “We left some points off the board. We didn’t make plays like we did in past games. We know how good we are. We know that this is not going to be a reflection on the season. We have them the first district game of the year (Sept. 23, Tiger Field).”
Inside the numbers
The overall offensive statistics: Peyton Mansell 126 of 180 1,393 yards, 29 TDs, 5 INTs. Davion Peoples 25/312, 11 TDs. Chandler Vela 28/284, 3 TDs, Remington Lutz 4/76. Weston Lucas 20/203, 4 TDs. Lane Holmes 11/123, 7 TDs. John Taggart 19/198 2 TDs, Logan Collins 15/203, 2 TDs. Riley Brown 1/10.
Post game and other District 8-6A competitors
The Tigers finished 4-1 in the tournament and advanced to the second round of the championship bracket.
After meeting with the players after the final game, Belton athletic director/head coach Bob Shipley met with the players and voiced how proud he was of the team. He and several members of the coaching staff observed the team from the seats outside of the field of play, watching the team fight back in all five games.
“I told the team how proud I am of them,” Shipley said. “They had to come back adversity. They had some highlights and some low lights. But they kept fighting back from adversity and I liked what I saw all weekend. They keep fighting because they are great competitors and believe in each other. If someone asks me the strength of our 2016 football team, I tell them that it’s the bond that they have. They are a family and always fight for each other. I don’t think that there was a game that we played, frankly, that the other team was more athletic than we were. They don’t measure heart and you can’t measure competitive nature. We have both of those and I thought we displayed a lot of it. I told them afterwards that even if they won it all, they don’t hand out gold footballs or put a trophy in the trophy case. It’s touch football. We take great pride in being physical on both sides of the ball, but you can’t be physical in 7-on-7 football. It takes out what we are trying to be. You take the good from it and hope that we can use the momentum going into the season.”
“In past years, we haven’t been as close as a family, with some cliques on the team” Mansell said, “This year has been different, especially with several of us playing for several years together. We knew that it would be our team and we are a family.”
Heights won Pool E with a 3-0 record (Def. state runner up Dickinson 39-34, def. Plano East 27-25, def. Pioneer 33-27), defeated Houston Heights 38-22, defeated Belton and lost into the championship quarterfinal round to DeSoto 39-28 to finish the tournament 5-1.
Copperas Cove finished fourth in Pool G (1-2), suffering a last-play loss to Abilene Cooper (38-33), defeating Mesquite 31-20, and falling to Houston Lamar in the final moments 39-33. In consolation bracket play, Cove defeated West Brook 33-21 before falling to District 8-6A rival Killeen Ellison 47-34 to finish the tournament 2-4.
Ellison won the consolation bracket championship after going 0-3 in Pool P play, losing by a combined eight points. They lost to McAllen Memorial 41-40, Arlington 26-20 and Cy-Ranch 34-33. In the consolation bracket, they defeated Alamo Heights 40-37, Cove 47-34, Plano East 42-20 in the quarterfinals, Poteet 41-27 in the semifinals and A&M Consolidated 46-34 in the finals to finish the tournament 5-3.
District 8-6A was represented well at the Adidas Texas 7-on-7 Division I tournament. They went 7-5 in pool play (the five losses were by a combined 19 points, less than four points per game) and 9-3 in bracket play for a total of 16-8 in the tournament.
“It’s going to be a tough season. It always is and we’re in a tough district,” Shipley said. “The district has a number of great athletes that are serious about football. In past years, summers haven’t always been important to those in the district. But if you look across the board at the teams in our district, great coaching staffs and kids that want to get to the next level. It is going to be a great district race.”
The Woodlands won the Division I championship with a 32-26 win over Dickinson.