BELTON — The Belton Tigers knew they had a heavyweight bout on their hands with Austin Westlake in town for a demanding season opener. The Tigers absorbed punches, landed their share and will take every feeling, positive and negative, following a grueling test with them and apply those to the next nine games of the regular season.
The fourth-ranked Chaparrals scored 17 straight points to close the first half and shake off an early deficit en route to a 38-17 victory at sweltering Tiger Field night.
“We just made too many mistakes against a good football team that’s played 50-something games in the last three years,” Belton second-year coach Sam Skidmore said. “You can’t make those types of mistakes. We’re going to use it as a learning experience, get better from it. This ain’t the end-all, be-all. I promise you that.”
Westlake’s Tripp Graham delivered a game-high 158 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 bruising carries. Quarterback Taylor Anderson had a 17-yard rushing score among his 17 carries and 58 yards, and the senior finished 11-of-20 passing for 171 yards and three scores for the Chaparrals, who outgained Belton 399-228.
Belton senior quarterback Connor Carothers completed 12 of 19 passes for 78 yards and sophomore signal caller Ruben Jimenez went 7-of-9 for 46 yards. They each had an interception and Carothers lost a fumble. Marques Aguilar had a team-high 37 yards on 13 carries for a Tigers rushing attack that was mostly bottled up and will need to produce more going forward. Anthony Brown hauled in 10 catches for 62 yards.
Belton defensive end Devin Martinez sacked Anderson three times and Jason Stephens grabbed a second-quarter interception.
Stephens’ leaping, juggling interception at Westlake’s 24 was cashed in through Carothers’ 6-yard TD toss to Jose Perez that lifted Belton into a 10-7 lead at the mark of the period. The Chaparrals, though, went back ahead with Graham’s 5-yard TD run that kick-started the 17 straight points from the visitors that also included the safety on a bad snap from Belton’s 7-yard line out of the back of the end zone, and Anderson’s 17-yard scoring scamper and subsequent 2-point pass to Lindley for a 24-10 halftime lead.
“I feel like we weren’t prepared to play enough. I take that on us as coaches. We didn’t get them prepared to play, to execute properly. That’s on us,” Skidmore said.
Anderson added third-quarter touchdown passes of 38 and 24 yards to Lindley and Mason Mangum to increase the Chaps’ lead to 38-10 before Belton’s Denver Holman’s electrifying 84-yard punt return early in the fourth.
“I knew they were going to kick it to the right when I saw (the punter) roll right, and I knew that the left seid of the coverage was going to try to surround me, so I just tried to hit it up the middle and took off,” Holman said.
Martinez ended Westlake’s first two drives with sacks. But the Chaparrals turned their worst field position of the night into their first points when they traveled 99 yards on eight plays, with Anderson finding Lindley for a 20-yard TD connection and a 7-0 lead with left in the first quarter.
Holman’s long return on the ensuing kickoff set up Belton at Westlake’s 33. The Tigers’ drive stalled after Carothers’ pass into the end zone fell incomplete and they settled for Logan Smith’s 23-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 52 seconds remaining in the first.
“We made mistakes. More studying, more film,” Belton cornerback Trey Berry said. “We just have to move on from it.”