BELTON — Friday’s game against Waco Midway embodied the season for the Belton football team. The Tigers had a good offense but a defense that was lacking.
The Belton defense couldn’t stop the Midway offense most of the night as the Panthers scored touchdowns on their first eight possessions in a 63-33 victory over the Tigers in a District 8-5A contest at Tiger Field. Belton (2-8, 2-5 District 8-5A) ended its season with five consecutive losses.
Midway (8-2, 6-1) earned a co-district title with Temple and will face Mansfield (5-5) in a Class 5A Division II bi-district playoff next Saturday.
The turning point of Friday’s game was the last minute of the first half. After both teams scored touchdowns on their first four possessions Midway finally made a defensive stop with 50 seconds remaining and forced Belton to punt. The Panthers needed just 29 seconds to move 86 yards to take a 35-28 halftime lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Ben Hicks to Devontre Stricklin.
Belton recovered an onside kick to open the second half, but four plays
later on fourth-and-4 a fake-punt run by Kavan Johnson was short by 1
yard. Midway countered with a 58-yard drive capped by a 7-yard scoring run by Xavier Hailey, one of his four touchdowns.
Belton receiver Andre Ewing caught a 40-yard pass from Joe Flynn on
Belton’s next drive, but on the play Kahlil Haughton forced Ewing to
fumble and the Panthers recovered at their own 8-yard line. Hicks
connected with Jayson Clements on 34-yard touchdown pass to give Midway a 49-28 lead with 3:42 left in the third quarter. Ben Hicks was 20-for-24 passing for 355 yards and three touchdowns.
Belton’s next possession was three-and-out and Midway followed with a four-play 68-yard drive capped by a 10-yard by Hailey to give Midway a 56-28 lead with 1:02 left in the third. Midway did not attempt a punt, as did Shoemaker in a 62-42 win over Belton last week.
“They did a good job with pass patterns in the third quarter. We didn’t
get enough pressure and he (Hicks) made some good throws,” Belton coach Rodney Southern said. “The past five weeks have been tough when you’re not winning. You want to win for your kids and your seniors and obviously you want to be in the playoffs.
“There’s all kinds of things you want, but sometimes God doesn’t give you what you want. I was proud how they kept competing.”
Belton’s second drive was costly as starting quarterback Shane Stafford
was injured after an 8-yard run and did not return. Senior Joe Flynn
performed well off the bench, going 20-for-27 on pass attempts for 209
yards with one touchdown and one interception. Belton standout running back Brandon Rhoads left the game in the second quarter and did not return because of an apparent shoulder injury.
Belton’s most creative scoring drive was its fourth. Facing a
fourth-and-10 at its own 49-yard line, Belton punter Haygen Tibbits threw a 23-yard pass to Johnson. This set up a 25-yard touchdown pass from Flynn to Kyle Adamson to give Belton a 28-21 lead with 6:49 left in the second quarter. Johnson rushed for 101 yards in the first half and led all players with 141 for the game.
Midway struck back with a 75-yard drive in 2:20 capped by an 11-yard
touchdown pass from Hicks to Hailey. Midway needed just 5:23 combined for its first four touchdown drives. Hicks threw for 237 yards in the first half.
Midway’s 35-0 run ended with 8:35 remaining when Belton defensive end Cody Caswell tackled Midway running Stephon Free for a safety. Free finished with 99 yards rushing on eight carries while Eric Clayburn led Midway with 104 yards on eight carries. The Panthers averaged 11.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Belton reserve kicker Blake Odell made an 18-yard field goal on the game’s final play to conclude the season for the Tigers.