BELTON — Shane Stafford might be the only person in Belton who is glad Peter Shelburne is gone.
Stafford doesn’t have anything against the former Tigers quarterback, who accepted a preferred walk-on opportunity at Rice following a standout senior season.
He is merely excited to have an opportunity to finally lead the Belton offense. The rising junior received his first experience of life as a starting quarterback Friday evening when Belton participated in its spring game at Tiger Stadium. Stafford completed 8 of 15 passes for 90 yards as he guided the White team to a 17-12 victory against the Red in the intrasquad scrimmage conducted under game-like conditions.
“It felt good not having Peter there,” said Stafford, who also produced 53 yards and a touchdown on five carries. “It just kind of felt like it was my own, and I could take control of the game and get my grove.”
The White team did most of its damage on the first drive, covering 75 yards in eight plays, including Stafford’s 11-yard touchdown run. Stafford accounted for all but 10 yards during the possession, completing 3 of 4 passes for 39 yards and rushing twice for 31 yards.
Stafford played receiver last season for the Tigers, but according to Belton head coach Rodney Southern, it was important for him and other young players to practice in a real-game environment with referees on the field and coaches on the sidelines.
“The next time we do this is for real,” he said. “I always believe that spring games should be game-like. ... The effort was good, I thought the tackling was good at times, but it was a spring game.”
Following the scrimmage’s opening drive, neither team put together many successful possessions before Southern concluded the contest with 1:32 remaining in the second of two 15-minute halves.
With quarterback Joe Flynn orchestrating the Red team’s offense, the rising senior guided the unit to pair of field goals sandwiched around a punt from the White team. Nick Amato connected on a 29-yard attempt and a 31-yarder to make the score 7-6 with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
Neither team scored again until Kavan Johnson broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run on a right sweep to complete a one-play drive with 1:37 remaining in the first half. Then the White defense spoiled a potential game-tying score as Tevin Jones intercepted Flynn’s pass with 35 seconds left on the clock.
“I just reached my hand out, and it was there,” Jones said of the play.
After producing consecutive sacks and forcing the Red team to punt, Camron Meyers delivered a 47-yard run on the White team’s first possession of the second half, setting up successful 32-yard field goal by Blake Odell to make the score 17-6.
Aided by Flynn’s 25-yard completion to Andre Ewing to convert on fourth-and-16, the Red team tallied the final points of the game on Kyle Adamson’s 4-yard touchdown run.
“It feels great (to be back),” said Adamson, who rushed for 66 yards on 10 carries after being sidelined with a shoulder injury last season. “My shoulder feels good, I’m running good, and everything feels great.”
Overall, Southern, who has the Tigers competing in 7-on-7 games less than 15 hours after the completion of the spring game, has no significant complaints about the game or spring training as a whole.
“Basically, O-line and D-line, we are pretty much intact from a year ago,” he said. “All of our skill people are limited experience or no experience. ... But what we got out of spring training, as a head coach, I’m pleased.”