BELTON — After getting shut out 7-0 last week by Harker Heights, the Belton Tigers needed two things to be able to hit the throttle again — a fast start on offense and to find balance.
They got both.
Belton took advantage of a pair of Ellison turnovers, passed for more than 200 yards and ran for more than 200 Friday as it defeated the Eagles 35-16 at Tiger Field.
“I think we really utilized the balance in our offense this week,” said Belton tight end Durham Smythe, a Texas Longhorns commit. “That is what we really wanted to do this week — be more balanced, complete a high percentage of passes and move the ball consistently.
“We always want to come out fast and finish strong and we did that. We just need to clean up some stuff.”
Ellison, meanwhile, is still trying to overcome its own mistakes.
The Eagles (0-5, 0-2 8-5A) rushed for 301 yards against Belton, including 216 from senior running back Isiah Cowan, but early fumbles gave all the early momentum to the Tigers. Belton (4-1, 1-1) took a 21-0 lead before Ellison could get over the fact that mistakes was dooming them once again.
“We threw the ball better tonight … and Isiah had a lot of yards and the other kids picked up yards as well,” said Ellison coach Buddy McBryde. “We have to eliminate the mistakes. No telling how it would have turned out if we had scored on that opening drive and not fumbled.
“We are getting better. We still have to get them all out of our system, I guess.”
The Eagles had driven down to the Belton 19 before Jones was sacked by Joe Guthrie and coughed up the football. The first Tigers drive took less than two minutes and only four plays and culminated when Peter Shelburne, who finished 10-of-14 passing for 214 yards, hit Derick Bates (three receptions, 100 yards) in stride over the middle of the field for a 41-yard touchdown.
Ellison drove 50 yards on its next drive, but Cowan lost the handle on a pitch and Belton cornerback Nate Mitchell recovered the fumble.
Shelburne then connected with Smythe three times in a row, the last a 14-yard post in the end zone.
“It feels good. You have to find that rhythm and once you hit it, you can keep it rolling,” Smythe said.
The Tigers went up 21-0 when they drove 50 yards on six plays on their next possession, running the ball all six times and scoring on a 5-yard run by Rhoads.
“We converted those first two turnovers into points, which is what we needed to do,” Southern said. “I think I will see some good things on film and I think I will see some things we need to improve on between now and next Friday (against Temple).”
Ellison started to make a comeback late in the second quarter. Following an interception by Shelburne, Cowan burst up the middle of the Belton defense for a 3-yard touchdown.
On the next Tiger possession, a snap on third-and-18 went over Shelburne’s head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety to cut the Belton lead to 21-9.
The comeback ended there.
The Tigers came out with an eight-play, 63-yard drive to start the second half and did most of it on the ground. Belton rushed six times for 52 yards, including Shelburne’s 7-yard touchdown run to go up 28-9.
Ellison again ran the ball well on its next drive, getting a pair of first downs. However, the Eagles were forced to punt and the Tigers scored on the ensuing possession.
And again it was Shelburne and Smythe doing the damage. The duo connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in the third quarter that all but put the game out of reach for Ellison.
The Eagles did manage to cut the lead to 35-16, following a 12-play drive that took more than five minutes off the clock — too much time. Ellison tried an onside kick, but the ball did not go 10 yards and Belton took over possession and chewed further into the Eagles comeback attempt, which finally ended on a failed fourth-and-23 with 1:59 remaining.
“I don’t know if we are back in full throttle, I think we played better,” Southern said. “We are still reaching and grabbing some. That running back is a good football player and we just gave up too much.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569