Belton quarterback Shane Stafford hands off to running back Kavan Johnson during Friday’s practice in Belton.

This past spring, Belton head coach Bob Shipley wasn’t the only Tiger transitioning into a position of leadership.

The Belton seniors, who were not quite seniors at the time, were also adjusting to new roles as elder statesman and leaders on a team that will look to return to the playoffs in 2014.

And like Shipley, those seniors are fully adjusted now and ready to lead under Shipley in his first season at the helm.

“In the spring, they weren’t verbal leaders at all, they led by example — that’s pretty typical,” Shipley said. “You’ve got guys that are juniors that haven’t really had to spread their wings and lead yet and so they still kind of think like a junior and not a senior in spring training.

“Then in the summer, you see them start realizing, ‘OK, I’m a senior. This is it.’”

One player that fits that description is senior offensive lineman Sam Hussey.

With Texas Tech signee Justin Murphy gone, Hussey and his fellow seniors on the offensive line will be expected to lead a significantly younger unit this year.

And while Hussey doesn’t consider himself a vocal leader, the senior has found a way to step up and be a role model for his younger teammates.

“Sam, he’s not a guy that’s a rah-rah, in-your-face kind of guy,” Shipley said, “He just leads by example.”

But Hussey isn’t the only senior leading by example.

While quarterback Shane Stafford has stepped up as a vocal leader — for which Shipley said he is glad — plenty of Tigers are leading in different ways, which Shipley said he also appreciates.

“It’s really amazing, guys like Tevin Jones, Kavan Johnson, senior returners that are not real loud, vocal guys, but they’re great role models,” Shipley said. “They set the tone of leadership with their practice habits and effort, so that’s really good to see.”

Shipley also mentioned receiver Brandon Rhoads as a player who has stepped up since the spring.

All of it might not be a coincidence as senior defensive lineman Garret Trout said the Tigers already appear to have improved chemistry-wise this season.

“There’s more unity in the team,” Trout said. “We have come together better than we did last year.”

Now, Belton hopes that all of it will lead to an improvement in the win column after a 2-8 season.

Contact Jordan Mason at or 254-501-7562​

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