COPPERAS COVE — Carlton Shanks wants to improve with every game.
The Belton sophomore wants to earn a spot on the varsity roster, and he knows he cannot afford to waste any time if he is going to achieve that goal.
Tuesday, during the final series of weekly 7-on-7 games played between the Tigers and Copperas Cove, the defensive back improved his chances, helping Belton limit the Bulldawgs to a combined 26 points in three games, including one shutout.
For Shanks, who intercepted a pass by Copperas Cove quarterback Davonn Hopkins-Phelps in the evening’s final game at Bulldawg Stadium, 7-on-7 is the ideal time to hone his skills and mesh as a unit.
“I’m always trying to (improve) my techniques,” Shanks said. “There’s not linemen or running (during 7-on-7), it’s all passing, and it’s a lot of work for the DBs. It takes a lot of work for us to pull together, but this is the best time.”
After finishing the first game in a 7-7 tie, the Tigers won the second contest 18-0 before losing 19-13 in the last game.
Like Shanks, Copperas Cove linebacker Elijah Timarky believes 7-on-7 football is a prime opportunity for the Bulldawgs defense to enhance its collective abilities.
“We are working on footwork, reading the offensive plays, getting downhill (as a linebacker) and timing our hits,” Timarky said. “We’re just trying to read the wide receivers and break off them even faster.”
Timarky produced a late interception of Belton quarterback Shane Stafford during the second game, but the damage was already done.
After engineering a scoring drive on the first possession of the game, the Tigers increased their advantage when Stafford found Cameron Myers in the end zone. For the second consecutive time, however, the conversion was incomplete and Belton held a 12-0 lead.
The Tigers quickly regained possession and scored in four plays as Stafford connected with Kyle Adamson, Andre Ewing and Stephan Snyder before Brandon Rhoads hauled in a touchdown.
Once again, though, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful as Timarky picked off the pass.
“I saw the nearest guy and attacked him,” the senior said. “I coordinated our routes and came down with the ball, and I took off.”
Copperas Cove also won the lineman’s challenge 46-40, and the Bulldawgs’ second team beat Belton’s second team in a pair of shutouts (6-0 and 20-0) before recording a scoreless tie in the final game.
While Belton looks forward to the 2013 State 7-on-7 Tournament in mid July, Copperas Cove’s 7-on-7 season came to an end with the conclusions of the games.
“This was our last game,” Copperas Cove senior Spencer Malchow said, “but I think (the season) went pretty good. We competed well.”
With the end of the 7-on-7 season, the real work now begins, according to Timarky.
“The harder you work during the offseason, you’ll be a beast when you play,” he said. “You won’t just be going through the motions because you worked so hard during the offseason. It will be like nothing to you when you play in the season.”
Although Shanks still has more 7-on-7 football ahead, he knows at some point the season games will end, the team will separate and it will take discipline to return in peak condition.
“I’m going to workout a lot,” he said. “I’ll do a lot of running and weight lifting and probably do some drills to help keep up with my skills.”