FORT HOOD — Both of his legs cramped at the end, but when Daniel McCants crossed the goal line, the only thing that mattered to the junior running back from Killeen was that his Roos were one step closer to the playoffs.
His 74-yard touchdown run near the end of the Roos’ 45-39 win over Belton at Hood Stadium on Friday was the back-breaker and his fourth rushing touchdown of the game.
“I was really tired. I caught cramps in both of my legs, but it was a good run. I knew I had to do it for my team,” McCants said. “We’ve got to go to the playoffs. We’ve got to win our next two games and go to the playoffs.”
McCants ran for 272 yards on 28 carries, the Killeen defense scored twice and the Roos (6-2, 3-2 8-5A) beat the Tigers in their first meeting since 1997.
Belton (5-3, 2-3) trailed 45-32 before Peter Shelburne completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Durham Smythe with 1:46 left, but Deric Roberson, who returned an interception for a 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter, recovered the Tigers’ onside kick attempt. Garrett Gaskamp ran for 9 yards on a third-and-four with less than a minute and a half left that allowed the Roos to kneel the ball twice to run out the final 76 seconds.
“Coach was talking about all week that we have to treat this like a playoff game and if we win this, we’re in perfect position,” Roberson said. “We came out here and won and it means everything to the team.”
Trailing 22-18 at halftime, Killeen took a 25-22 lead late in the third quarter when Gaskamp, who finished 6-of-10 for 108 yards passing with an interception, scored on a 1-yard run. Belton running back Brandon Rhoads was dropped for a 2-yard loss on a fake punt attempt to set the Roos up at the Tigers’ 41-yard line and Gaskamp completed a 14-yard pass to McCants to tive the Roos a first-and-goal at the Tgiers’ one to set up the score.
Killeen linebacker Quantavis Patterson scored on a 6-yard fumble return with 40 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Roos a 33-22 lead.
“You’ve got to create turnovers and your offense has got play well,” Jones said. “When you’re playing teams that can score, you’ve got to help the offense out, you have to get interceptions, you’ve got to get turnovers and you’ve got to make plays (defensively). That’s what you call a team win — offense and defense.”
Belton answered with a 42-yard field goal from Carlos Mosnia with 9:37 left in the fourth and Shelburne tied the game 17 seconds later on a 10-yard carry after DeVarri McCray fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
McCray made up for the gaffe with a go-ahead, 56-yard touchdown reception with 7:38 to go.
“He needed that for him because everybody was on him pretty hard. All he had to do was catch the ball and get up field and he would’ve been fine (on the kickoff), but he’s a prideful kid and he made something happen and that’s what he’s got to do.”
Belton scored 22 unanswered points in the second quarter, capitalizing on a Killeen turnover and an onside kick to lead led 22-18 at halftime.
Shelburne scored on a 4-yard run with five minutes left in the first half and completed a 2-point conversion pass to Derick Bates to give the Tigers a 15-12 lead. Shelburne then threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Patrick Ewing to take a 22-12 lead with 1:32 left.
After turning the ball on their previous two possessions, the Roos drove 72 yards on three carries by McCants, including a 56-yarder and a 9-yard scoring run to cut the Tigers’ lead to four at the break. McCants had 155 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the first half.
“It was big because I thought we had lost it (the momentum),” Jones said of the Roos’ touchdown just before halftime. “I thought we played well the first quarter and we had a fumble, we had an interception (in the second quarter. ... We gave them everything they got the first half.”
Killeen took a 12-0 lead in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run by McCants with 8:30 to go and Roberson’s pick-6 a minute and a half later.
The Tigers went three-and-out on their first two possessions, but after recovering an onside kick attempt by the Roos, had to go only 45 yards for their first score.
Shelburne completed a 24-yard pass to Smythe on a second-and-20 play and Rhoads scored on a 6-yard carry 21 seconds into the second quarter.
The Tigers couldn’t take advantage of a Gaskamp fumble at the Killeen 44-yard line, but three plays after punting away to the Roos, Garrett Curry intercepted Gaskamp to set up Shelburne’s go-ahead touchdown run.
The Tigers then recovered the onside kick and Shelburne put Belton up 10 eight plays later with a minute and a half left in the half.