Trent Gregory knows Belton is next on the schedule, but he would prefer his team did not.
Ellison makes its final road trip of the regular season Friday, traveling to face the Tigers in a contest with major playoff implications as each resides in a four-team tie for third place in the District 8-6A standings.
While the Eagles’ head coach understands Belton poses a serious challenge, averaging 51.3 points during its last three games behind a star-studded offense, he wants his players to simply see opportunity when they step on the field.
“To us,” Gregory said, “this is just another faceless opponent. We’ve just got to go out and take care of our business.
“Every week, we say how our most important game is the next one, and regardless of who it is, they are faceless. So we just want to go out, play a great game and see what happens.”
After starting the season with six consecutive victories, Ellison’s playoff hopes are in jeopardy following Friday’s stunning 26-25 loss to Killeen.
Despite scoring 19 unanswered points to open the game, the Eagles (6-2, 2-2) found themselves trailing by seven points, 26-19, with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
It only took Ellison 71 seconds to respond, however, as senior quarterback Carl Robinson III found Ta’von Gwynn for a 36-yard touchdown, but the extra point was missed, securing the victory for Killeen.
Although the outcome was disappointing, Gregory refuses to let the loss linger.
“We came up a little short,” he said. “Sometimes, unfortunately, that happens, and it’s part of life, but you’ve just got to pick the pieces up and go back to work. That’s what we did.
“The kids were down, and they were hurt, and I’d be worried if they weren’t, but we’ve moved on. We have to.”
There were positives for the Eagles, though.
In addition to the late-game scoring drive, Robinson accounted for 193 total yards of offense, running back Darrell Peterkine averaged 5.4 yards per carry en route to 97 yards and a touchdown, and Gwynn, a junior, caught seven passes for 162 yards and two scores.
Ellison will likely need another strong offensive showing to contend with Belton (5-3, 2-2).
Led by Iowa verbal commit Peyton Mansell, who has thrown for 1,686 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 663 yards and nine scores, the Tigers’ wins have been by a combined 173 points, while each of their loses have been by single digits.
Belton’s offensive arsenal also relies on senior running back Davion Peoples, who is responsible for 1,096 total yards and 16 touchdowns, helping make up a quartet of players with at least 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns for the season.
Defensively, the Tigers have recorded 9.5 sacks, recovered seven fumbles, intercepted five passes, including four from senior safety Garrison Vaughn, and have the second stingiest defense during district play, allowing just 92 points.
“They’re good,” Gregory said. “They’re big up front on both sides of the ball, they’re strong, and they’re physical.
“Across the board, Belton is just a great football team.”
With only the Tigers and district unbeaten Midway remaining on the Eagles’ schedule, another defeat could be devastating as the program tries to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“They’re hungry to be the team that takes Ellison back to the postseason,” Gregory said. “They’ve all worked extremely hard and sacrificed and put a lot into this. They’ve got a lot invested.
“So we’d love nothing more than to get a win Friday night and see where it goes from there.”