28 points, including 21 in first 3 minutes, trip Tigers
By Tony Adams
The Belton Tigers hosted the Pflugerville Hendrickson in the Tigers’ first home game of the season.
The home fans got to see the home team with their new chrome football helmets.
The Hawks stole the show, as three quick touchdowns in the game’s first 3:15 put the Tigers behind the proverbial curve and Hendrickson pulled away to win at Tiger Field 49-21.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 1-1. With the win, Hendrickson raised their record to 2-0.
Following an onside kick attempt by Belton to start the game, Hendrickson started their initial drive on the Belton 46. Lawrence Hill scored on a 36-yard run just 55 seconds into the game. Bryan Espinosa made the score 7-0.
Belton’s initial drive was quick. Shane Stafford’s first pass attempt fell incomplete to Coby Potvin. On the next play, a bad exchange created a fumble that was recovered by the Hawks’ Jordan Williams. He scooped up the ball and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. Espinosa’s extra point failed, keeping the score at 13-0 just 1:12 into the ball game.
The Tigers got the ball back on their own 30. Stafford picked up five yards on the ground, but the offense could not achieve a first down. Stafford’s punt was partially blocked and landed on the Hendrickson 42.
Ryan Johnson and Garret Trout made a stop on first down to begin Hendrickson’s next drive. On the third play of the Hawks’ drive, Carrington Kearney executed a play fake and ran down the middle of the field 46 yards for a score. The two-point conversion was good and Hendrickson took a 21-0 with 8:45 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams traded possessions before Belton got the ball back on their own 14. Following a Stafford incompletion, Kavan Johnson got his first handoff of the season and took it 73 yards to the Hendrickson 13. Johnson, who missed last week’s game with Waco University with an injury, gained the Tigers’ longest play of the season. Stafford and Johnson each had four yard gains down to the Hendrickson 5. On third down and two, Johnson was stopped. On fourth down and two, Stafford was sacked by Niko DeLaCruz, causing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs.
The Hawks cashed in just two plays later. Following a Tazh Maloy three-yard gain, Kearney found an edge and ran 83 yards for a touchdown. Espinosa’s extra point made the score 28-0 with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
The teams traded possessions, with great defense in the secondary by Carlton Shanks III and Matt Chapman, before Coby Potvin returned a punt 42 yards, just to have the return wiped out on a block in the back call. Stafford had the offense finally going with a 29-yard pass to Olajuwon Taylor to the Belton 48. Stafford found Tonee Muldrew to break into Hendrickson territory and called his own number down to the 37-yard line. The Tigers drive stalled on fourth down and eight when Johnson was stopped on a two-yard gain, causing a turnover on downs.
After the teams traded punts, Hendrickson went on another scoring drive. Trent Howard’s 22-yard carry set up Maloy for carries of 8, 6, and 17 before his 7-yard TD run made the score 35-0 with 3:11 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers came out of the locker room to begin the second half and Stafford connected with Potvin and Potvin with regularity, completing eight passes to set up a 27-yard TD run by Davion Peoples. Blake Odell’s extra point capped an impressive 13-play, 77-yard, 3:37 drive. The Tigers trailed 35-7.
On the ensuing drive, Hendrickson went on a march. Reggie Daniels’ 30-yard kickoff return spurred another series of short carries and third down conversions by the Hawks. Hendrickson worked the ball down to the Belton 7. On first and goal, a bad snap resulted in a fumble, which Chris Jones recovered on the Belton 6.
The Tigers converted a key third down pass from Stafford to Potvin for 17 yards to the Belton 27. But they were forced to punt, following a Tiger personal foul. The punt went to the Belton 39.
The Hawks put together a quick, five-play drive with Maloy flying around right end for an 18-yard TD run to make the score 42-7 with 1.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers got off to a quick start on their first drive in the fourth quarter, but it ended just two plays after it started. A quick strike from Stafford to Potvin for 21 yards was erased by a bad snap and a fumble recovery by the Hawks on the Belton 40.
Hendrickson turned the turnover into seven points 3:05 later when Dominic Destefano crashed through the middle for a 3-yard TD run to give the Hawks a 49-7 lead with 8:35 remaining in the ball game.
Belton’s quick strike capability made itself evident on the next drive. Following a Rhoads’ 6-yard carry and Stafford 6-yard pass to Potvin, Stafford hit Bryce Thomas with a 45-yard pass over the middle to the Hendrickson 15. Rhoads had another 6-yard carry and Peoples ended the drive with a 9-yard TD run. Odell’s extra point made the score 49-14 with 6:56 remaining.
The Hawks went three-and-out on their next drive and Belton started their final drive of the game on their own 44. Stafford connected with Rhoads and Potvin each for six yards. Peoples added rushes of 7 and 18 yards, and Johnson added a 15-yard run. Peoples capped off the drive with a 5-yard TD run and made the score 49-21 with 1:43 remaining.
Hendrickson held on to the ball the rest of the game and traveled back to Pflugerville with a 28-point win in tow.
The read option got the best of the Tigers’ defense during the game, finding the Tigers in several sitations and accounted for all seven Hendrickson scores.
“I’ll have to watch the film, but I do know that guys were not in positions to make tackles,” said Belton head coach Bob Shipley. “Sometimes the guys who were simply not in position. With a team like Hendrickson, little things matter. That first step, your angle, how high or low you are, the little things matter. You’re not going to beat Hendrickson if you don’t do the little things right. We didn’t tackle. I’ll take nothing from Hendrickson. That’s a great football team over there. We had things we need to work on, didn’t do a good job tackling and containing the jet sweep. We let them run the ball down our throats all night.”
Athletically, Shipley said that Hendrickson is similar to a couple of the teams in District 12-6A.
“The athleticism is similar to a few of the teams in our district, unfortunately,” said Shipley. “I thought this game was a measuring stick of where we are and it was. We’re not quite where we want to be and I believe in these guys. They’ll come back.”
Johnson coming off of the injury was one of the high points of the game for the Tigers.
“Kavan is a very unselfish player,” said Shipley. “We limited his runs because of coming back from the injury and he’s not quite in shape yet. We’ve tried to be cautious with him and he adds another dimension to our game. Peoples is also special when he puts his foot in the ground and that gives us a great 1-2 punch.”
Stafford’s assessment of the offense was that they got off to a sluggish start and it cost them early.
“The first half was slow and physically we got beat,” said Stafford. “At the half, we made some adjustments and our efforts increased and we executed.”
Hendrickson’s front seven was an aggressive defense that played impressive throughout the game.
“Their front seven was one of the best sevens I’ve seen in playing quarterback,” said Stafford. “They were fast, had a nose for the ball and were smart. Our line did what they could, but some plays they got the best of us and played very well.”
Round Rock Stony Point is next up for Belton Friday night at Tiger Field.