BELTON — Six years ago, Belton was at the bottom — winless. It was a program in shambles, looking back at an 0-10 season.
Then came Rodney Southern. And the wins started coming slowly, with back-to-back 3-7 seasons.Then came David Ash, who is now the starting quarterback at the University of Texas, and a District 12-5A title.
Then Ash left. And nothing changed. Belton is still winning, going 8-3 last season. Now, the playoffs are expected in Belton.
“I’ve already talked with our kids. The expectations that are outside of us we can’t control,” Southern said. “But, I hope we have expectations from ourselves.”
This season, Belton expects to have an inside track to the playoffs again, with several key weapons returning.
The Tigers are led this season by a talented wide receiver corps, including Texas-committed tight end Durham Smythe.
Smythe will play a dual role, becoming quarterback Peter Shelburne’s go-to option in the red zone and also a major factor in the run game, as one of the team’s best blockers.
He will be flanked on either side by Chase Thornal and Derick Bates as the Tigers become a bit more pass-happy than last season as they try to fill the offensive void left by the graduation of Donavan Williams, who rushed for 1,332 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
“We have a lot of guys who can catch a football. Our backs can catch and everyone knows Durham and Bates can catch,” Southern said.
Filling the immense hole at running back is sophomore standout Brandon Rhoads and senior Rayshon Jones.
Belton made huge strides on defense in 2011, but still is not back to its 2009 form when it led District 12-5A, surrendering only 10 points per game.
With the run game less sure than last season, the Tigers defense will have to keep teams off the field for longer periods of time. And it shouldn’t be a problem.
The Tigers return nine players who had significant playing time in 2011, including six who played as sophomores.
“It is the most experienced group we have had,” Southern said. “Several of them have 22 games under their belt ... that is what you want.”