The practice field gave way to the long-awaited first intersquad football scrimmages for the Lake Belton Broncos last Thursday at Burnet’s Bulldog Stadium.
Lake Belton’s Silver (freshman) squad took on the Bulldogs’ freshman team in a 75-play scrimmage. In a tough defensive battle, Burnet scored the lone touchdown on a 23-yard run.
The Broncos did recover a fumble on defense and had a pair of fourth-down stops. They were efficient in the passing facet, rushing game got good work in, and offensive line blocked well.
Next up was the Lake Belton JV Red against Burnet’s JV squad in a 60-play scrimmage, broke up into three 10-play offensive scripts for each side.
Although Burnet scored twice, the defensive showed resilience in shaking off the scores with solid plays.
Lake Belton had two long fourth-down conversions in the final drive: a 17-yard pass completion on a fourth-down and 10 at their own 30-yard line and a 25-yard completion on a fourth-down and 17 at their own 40-yard line.
The BRONCO squad took on the Burnet varsity, chock full of returners from their 6-4 squad from 2019.
The scrimmage was broken up in two parts: series scripts and a 20-minute period.
Burnet took advantage of all 10 plays in their first series by working the ball down the field, as they mixed the run and pass. BRONCO got a key pass deflection on third down and a fourth-down and five stop at their 19-yard line on the last play of the series.
The BRONCO offense showed its nerves in their first few snaps against the rugged Burnet varsity defense. However, a 19-yard pass play from Connor Crews to Connor Bartz and 10-yard pass play from Crews to Tristan Robin snapped the offense back into focus.
Burnet scored on a two-yard run on its next 10-play series, set up by a 46-yard play.
Lake Belton answered with a scoring drive of their own. Easton Hammond hit a receiver on a 28-yard slant to set BRONCO up in Burnet territory. On fourth-down and nine at the Burnet 41, Hammond spotted Ty Legg breaking open on the left sideline and heaved pass that Legg snagged, broke a tackle at the 15 and sprinted into the end zone for the score.
Neither team scored through the remainder of their series, as the 20-minute clock was set for the timed scrimmage.
Burnet scored on their first series, taking the ball 70 yards in seven plays, as they scored on a 5-yard run. The kick failed, as the Bulldogs led 6-0 with 15:50 to play.
BRONCO was able to get a first down on an 11-yard pass completion by Crews. However, a sack and two incompletions stalled the drive. Crews’ 32-yard punt set the Bulldogs up on their second possession at their own 35.
On the first play from scrimmage, the Burnet quarterback threw a pass on a slant route over the middle that was intercepted and returned 30 yards by Javeon “Boom” Wilcox to the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line with 12:30 to play.
With a short field to work with, Lake Belton had a prime opportunity. However, they received an offensive holding penalty on first down. On the play, one of the BRONCO receivers on the right side of the play was hauled down by the facemask at the goal line and was missed by the officials.
Lake was unable to convert a play in the next three downs. Crews’ 25-yard punt went out of bounds at the Burnet 10, leaving the Bulldogs to start the next possession in the shadows of their own goalposts.
The experience of the Burnet offensive line and running backs showed on the very next play. The running back for the Bulldogs took the handoff and went straight into the line. Lake Belton looked to have wrapped the ball carrier up. However, the linemen blocked off the tacklers, the running back made two spin moves, broke left and raced 90 yards for a touchdown.
The point-after try failed, which kept the score 12-0 with 9:42 to go.
BRONCO had a good start to the next drive, as Crews connected with Bartz with a second-and-13 pass completion for 12 yards to set up a short third-down try. However, the pass fell incomplete and, BRONCO was forced to punt. Crews’ 38-yard punt was fair caught at the Burnet 34.
Lake Belton’s defense hit the Bulldogs early in the drive, as Ty Brown dropped a ball carrier for a two-yard loss that Burnet could not recover from. BRONCO hauled in a punt at their own 31-yard line with 4:45 to play.
Crews connected with Jayden Leza on a 15-yard pass play on third down and 10 to prolong the final drive. However, BRONCO was unable to advance the ball past midfield, as the scrimmage clock expired.
The Lake Belton team has already come a long way in a couple of weeks. With a towel scrimmage, night scrimmage and intersquad scrimmage out of the way, Broncos’ Head Coach Brian Cope was extremely impressed with the entire program’s effort.
“I have never been more proud of a group of kids,” Cope said. “They gave 212 effort the whole night. There are only 37 players on our BRONCO team. They just did a really good job. I told them before the game that I wasn’t worried about Burnet: I was worried about us. They got better and we will be able to watch film.”
In building the program, Cope and his coaching staff has had a great deal of pride during the process.
“It is a lot of fun building a program,” Cope said. “Each day that you get to do this is a stepping stone to 2022.”
The offensive clicked well, by using bubble screens out of the stack formations off the edges loosened up the passing game between the hashes and allowed Crews and Hammond to take chances down the middle of the field.
“They (Burnet) are a 3-3 stack on defense, and they just don’t send three!” Cope said. “They send four and five every play. So, it was a really good test for our offensive linemen and they did a good job in handling them. They blocked the perimeter pretty good. We were just one step off here and there on the throw. The kids made some really good catches down the field. It just takes time. Those throws are completed next week. Hey, our kids are 14 and 15 going up against kids who are 17 and 18. I am just so proud of our kids and this was another opportunity to grow.”
Stephenville is next up for BRONCO at Tarleton Memorial Stadium on Thursday. It is a talented, established program with a solid history. It will be the first chapter in regular season football for Lake Belton, although on the sub-varsity stage. It does not diminish in importance to Cope and Bronco Nation.
“They’re going to be 4-2-5 on defense and are going to spread it out,” Cope said. “Coach (Sterling) Doty and I have coached against each other when he was at Magnolia before he went back home to Stephenville. He and his staff do a phenomenal job. They’ll have their kids ready. Coach (Sam) Skidmore, our AD, Coach (Ty) Pattrick, our assistant AD, and Coach (Dustin) Washburn, our OC, are all Tarleton grads. So what a great opportunity to open up Bronco Football in Stephenville at Tarleton Memorial Stadium at 6 o’clock on Thursday.”