By Kevin Posival
The Cove Herald
Belton surprised almost everyone - except maybe itself - last season.
So much of the preseason polls and predictions, Belton coach Rodney Southern said, are based on what teams did last year.
That may be why last year came as such a surprise to most and why this year the Tigers are expected to reach a Division II-5A state semifinal, even if they're not the District 12-5A favorite.
"Obviously, it's exciting for our program to be recognized but a lot of those preseason predictions are based on last year, which is out of our control at this point, but it's exciting for our program," Southern said.
The Tigers posted one of 5A's most significant turnarounds last year, going from 3-7 in 2008 to 10-2 last year, making the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and sharing the District 12-5A title.
Look at the Tigers now: they are led by Texas-committed quarterback David Ash and their first game of the season - in the Texas Football Classic - is against defending Division II-5A state champion Abilene on Aug. 27 in San Antonio - Dave Campbell Texas Football's Week 0 game to watch.
"I know where (the exposure) was when we got here and the amount of work it took to get from where we were to where we are today so it's pleasing for me as a head coach to know that the program is taking some key steps in moving that way," Southern said. "It's also pleasing to know as hard as our kids have worked, they're reaping some of the benefits from it."
Consolidated may be predicted to win the district championship but it won't be easy and it won't come from just Belton.
According to the annual 'bible' of Texas football, A&M Consolidated will also have to fight off Copperas Cove and Bryan, which are predicted to finish third and fourth in the district, respectively. But, if any of the four end up at the top when the dust settles, the magazine's predictions wouldn't have been that far off.
Belton is expected to "give A&M Consolidated a tough test for the title," Copperas Cove "should once again contend for a district title and Bryan could also make "a run at the district title," the magazine said.
"I think (all four teams) are going to be that way because of what they've all got returning, kind of like us ... I think all four teams that they've picked have a legitimate shot to beat any of the other ones at any given time," Southern said.
Ellison hasn't made the playoffs since 2007 - the last year the district was without Cove - and is predicted to finish on the outside looking in again, in fifth. Harker Heights, which was predected to finish last in 2009, is predicted a sixth-place finish ahead of Temple and Shoemaker, which is picked last.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562. Follow him on Twitter at KDHsports.