ROUND ROCK – Nyle Tabat missed a 36-yard field goal wide right. He missed one wide left. The one that mattered most in the end went right down the middle.
Tabat’s 31-yardkick sailed through with 18 seconds remaining and lifted Belton to a much-needed, most-relieving victory night, 24-21, over Round Rock Stony Point at Dragon Stadium.
“It’s awesome to get this team win,” said Tabat, who leaped with his arms in the air all the way back to Belton’s sideline toward a bunch of celebrating teammates after making the kick that eventually earned head coach Sam Skidmore his first victory. “It was a great feeling. I really wish I would’ve stood there longer, you know. I took off running as soon as I saw it.”
Maybe next time.
It was Belton’s turn to win in dramatic fashion, following last week’s three-point loss to Pflugerville Hendrickson on a last-seconds touchdown and by seven to Temple in the season opener.
It wasn’t easy again, however, as Stony Point (2-1) never let Belton (1-2) get ahead by more than seven, using trick plays for big gains and a 93-yard kickoff return for a TD by Tyler O’Bannon. But Belton, despite 16 penalties for 130 yards, found a way in a game that strayed from perfect on both sides.
“There’s a lot to work on. We made a lot of mistakes, but I was proud of our kids. They finished, they kept plugging away,” Skidmore said. “Defense stepped up at certain points. Offense stepped up at certain points. So it was very good to see.”
That defense forced three turnovers – interceptions by Trey Berry and Garrison Vaughn, and a fumble – and Belton also picked up another crucial takeaway on a special teams strip and recovery by Devasye Little, and got sacks from Clayton Blank and Isidro Martinez.
Meanwhile, the offense managed a season-best 446 yards behind quarterback Connor Carothers, running backs Bryce Julian and Darren Rector, and two long touchdowns by wide receiver Anthony Brown. Most important, perhaps, Belton didn’t have an interception or fumble.
“This is amazing. This is what I feel like I’ve been working for, coming up through middle school,” said Carothers, who finished 13-of-24 for 174 yards and the two TDs to Brown. “And this win, especially coming after two losses and to be able to get on the right track, I think we’re heading the right direction now.”
Julian delivered 119 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, Rector had 87 yards rushing and Carothers went for 67 yards on the ground. Brown’s five receptions for 90 yards included a 44-yard first-quarter TD and a 33-yard TD in the third.
Stony Point quarterback Donovan Rybechek was 12-of-17 for 125 yards and had one TD on in the first quarter after Brown had put Belton in front with his first touchdown. Tyler Cleveland added 114 yards, including a 13-yard TD, on 18 carries for Stony Point.
“We had to have guys step up and make plays when we needed to make plays. Our crowd was great, our band was phenomenal and it was awesome to have those guys here with us supporting us,” Skidmore said. “I think (the win is) huge and it helps prepare us for down the year.”
It took Belton to put points on the board, getting the quick start its offense needed. Brown grabbed Carothers’ short screen pass, reversed field, picked up blocks and scurried 44 yards for the opening touchdown.
Stony Point countered with a more methodical approach then finished a 10-play, 85-yard drive with some razzle-dazzle to tie it. Out of a timeout, Rybachek’s pass was caught by Griffin Trees, who lateraled the ball to O’Bannon and he dashed the remaining 15 yards to the left, front pylon for the score.
The offenses didn’t produce much in the first half after that, and each team squandered scoring opportunities. Belton missed two field goals to Stony Point’s one wayward attempt. And there were a combined 16 accepted penalties in the uneven opening 24 minutes.
Belton started three drives inside Stony Point territory in the first half, but turned the positive field position into just seven points on Julian’s 4-yard touchdown rush for a 14-7 lead with to go before halftime that followed Rybachek’s fumble that was recovered at the Stony Point 31 by Blank.
Stony Point answered on the kickoff with O’Bannon’s dash to the end zone to make it 14-all.
Brown’s 33-yard TD made it 21-14 before Cleveland’s scoring run on third-and-12 tied it once more with left in the third.
And then, Tabat’s field goal.
“After two big misses, you can’t control what’s already been done. I try to clear my head and just think about what’s ahead of me and think about the future. I just try to think positively,” Tabat said.