BELTON – The message at halftime Friday night was to relax. Not in the traditional sense, of course, because enough of that had been done in a first half that didn’t meet Belton’s standards.
No, it was relax in the manner of settling in and doing the job. The Tigers responded to that simple request in the second half and are still undefeated in District 12-6A to show for it.
Leading gritty Killeen Shoemaker by just six at the break, Belton scored 29 points over the final 24 minutes and buried the Grey Wolves 42-20 at Tiger Field for a fourth straight win one week ahead of the next big game.
“We made some mistakes and we had a little lull, but I was proud of the kids how they responded in the second half and played up to our capabilities, which was fun to see,” Belton head coach Sam Skidmore said.
The lull bogged down another fast start by Belton (4-1, 3-0), which led 13-0 just 6 minutes into the contest. The Tigers sputtered for the next 18 minutes during which they punted away one possession, gave another up on downs in Shoemaker territory, surrendered a special teams score when a bad snap sailed over punter Logan Smith’s head and was recovered in the end zone by Amir Batiste, and missed a field goal.
All of that allowed a Shoemaker (0-4, 0-2) squad, which now has lost 25 consecutive games dating to 2015, to hover within one score after 24 minutes, 13-7.
But led by quarterback Connor Carothers, the Tigers’ offense regained its form on its first drive of the third quarter and scored on four straight possessions to take care of the task at hand.
“We practiced as hard as we could this week just for this game and we just did our best and got the win,” said junior safety Tanner Holman, who had one of Belton’s two interceptions in a game during which the first-string defense allowed just one touchdown.
Receiver Anthony Brown, who was inserted on defense on the final play of the second quarter, had the other interception. Octavius Davis, Devin Martinez and Grant Milligan each recorded a sack for the Tigers, who yielded 307 yards.
Carothers finished 19-of-27 for 312 yards and five touchdowns passing, and added 52 yards and a score on the ground. Jose Perez hauled in three TDs among his nine catches and 112 yards. Carothers also connected with Brown for a 50-yard TD and Marques Aguilar for an 11-yard score.
“We came out in the second half and put them away,” Perez said. “Coach always says if your number’s called, make the play.”
Grey Wolves quarterback Mark Walker accounted for 199 total yards, and Devin Brown (1 yard) and Ka’Jari Herrera (7 yards) had short TD runs.
The Tigers ate up 94 yards on the game’s first series, and Carothers hit Perez for a 29-yard strike and 6-0 lead 3 minutes in. The two connected again – a 6-yard TD – for a 13-0 advantage at 6:03 of the first.
The Wheels wobbled from there, but were tightened during the 28-minute halftime, and Carothers’ TD passes to Aguilar, Brown and Perez, and his 5-yard keeper sealed the deal and sent the Tigers into rivalry week, which concludes next Friday inside Wildcat Stadium against Temple (4-0, 2-0).
“We have to get better moving on. That’s what teams that want to make noise in the playoffs have to do – get better every week,” Skidmore said. “We’ll enjoy (the win), make corrections and get back to work. (Next Friday), it’s going to be a lot of fun. Two undefeated teams in district going at it. They have a really good ball club over in Temple.”