BELTON – If a player was wearing red night, he likely found his way onto Tiger Field. And that made Belton head coach Sam Skidmore smile.
The Tigers rotated a slew of offensive and defensive reserves into the fray after the starters did enough to build an insurmountable cushion against winless Killeen Shoemaker during a cold, windy 35-12 District 8-6A homecoming rout that boosted Belton toward its goal of earning the league’s top Division I seed into the playoffs.
“Those kids, those seniors, have been a part of the program for four years and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, and it’s always good when you get a chance to reward them and get them into a game” Skidmore said.
Second-place Belton (5-3, 3-1), coming off a loss last week to first-place Waco Midway – its first defeat since early September that snapped a four-game winning streak – constructed a 28-0 lead on four Darren Rector rushing touchdowns, and sent in the reserves after the senior’s 4-yard TD with left in the fourth.
Backup Devasye Little added a 37-yard sprint to the end zone for Belton’s 35-0 advantage, before the Grey Wolves struck twice late – Claude Williams’ 22-yard TD reception from Jedarius Quarles and Quarles' 11-yard TD run – against Belton’s third-string defense for the final margin.
Williams finished with a game-high six catches and 151 yards.
“Shoemaker is a very explosive team and, you know, we got a lot of those kids in and they were able to score a couple late,” Skidmore said. “Coach (Toby) Foreman is trying to rebuild the program and teach the kids to fight to the end. “
Nine Tigers had at least one carry on a night where the wind made it difficult to throw with consistency. Among those ball carriers, three had their first attempt of the season. Belton recorded 273 yards on 52 carries – 138 yards and TD runs of 4, 3, 4 and 4 yards on 27 touches by Rector.
Also seeing action was third-string quarterback Reece Perry and Cameron Davis, the starting signal caller out of fall camp. The senior Davis made his first appearance since breaking his right collarbone in Week 1, relieving starter Connor Carothers for one play midway through the third quarter after Carothers was dinged following a sack.
Davis was back in two series later with the score 21-0 and directed an 11-play, 76-yard scoring drive – during which he ran the ball four times and completed his first pass (12 yards to Anthony Brown) since the opener – that ended with the aforementioned Rector run that put Belton up by four TDs.
Carothers finished with 49 yards passing, 26 rushing and no turnovers in leading the Tigers to their fifth win as their starter.
Jason Stephens and Garrison Vaughn each had an interception for Belton, which now has 16 this season. The Grey Wolves were limited to 43 yards rushing on 23 attempts. More than half of Shoemaker’s232 total yards (124) came on its final two possessions.
“We don’t ever quit. Coach Skidmore, they have a great program. This is the first time all year that we got beat at all three levels – freshman, JV and varsity,” Foreman said. “That is the direction where we are headed, where their program is at. The fight that our kids had, I’m extremely proud of those guys.”
Shoemaker had just 88 yards and three first downs while committing five penalties and having two drives ended by the Belton interceptions in the first half.
Stephens stepped in front of Shoemaker receiver Tiji Paul and picked off Mark Walker’s pass in the second quarter and the turnover led to seven Belton points.
“We were in man coverage. I had the man inside. I read it, came vertical, broke it out a little bit, saw the ball, jumped the route and made the pick,” said Stephens, a sophomore who has five picks this season.
The Grey Wolves also missed a chance near the end of the first half, when a fourth-down roughing the passer penalty on the Tigers set up Shoemaker with first-and-goal from the 8.
Vaughn’s interception at the 3 thwarted that scoring opportunity, though, Shoemaker (0-9, 0-5) dodged more damage when Vaughn’s touchdown return on the play was called back for an illegal block.
Belton benefitted from prime field position for most of the first half, starting drives at its 47 and Shoemaker’s 33, 48, and 24, as the Grey Wolves struggled to sustain possessions and kick quality punts.
The Tigers scored on their opening series and the nine-play, 53-yard drive was capped by Rector’s 4-yard TD run with to go in the first.
A 2-yard punt at the end of Shoemaker’s next possession put the ball at the Grey Wolves’ 33 and six plays later Rector was standing in the end zone for the second time in the first 9 minutes of the game after shrugging off contact at the line of scrimmage.
Stephens’ interception set up Belton at the Shoemaker 24-yard line early in the second quarter. Rector’s 20-yard jaunt preceded his 4-yard TD burst and the Tigers’ 21-0 with to go before halftime.