BELTON — Shane Stafford’s long kickoff return was a start.
From there, the Belton Tigers could’ve gone one of two directions: either use the sophomore’s 96-yard touchdown as a spark or let it stand as the Tigers’ only play worth mentioning.
“You’re excited about it, but you’re always leery because I’ve seen that happen and you don’t do anything after that,” Belton coach Rodney Southern said. “We work very hard on special teams and anytime you can go in and score like that, it just kind of sucks the wind out of (the opponent).”
Brandon Rhoads and Peter Shelburne saw it as just the beginning.
Stafford’s 96-yard kickoff return delayed the Belton offense’s home debut, but Rhoads, Shelburne and company put on a fireworks show as soon as they got the chance for a 42-16 win over former District 12-5A foe Bryan on Friday at Tiger Stadium.
“It basically set the game for us,” Rhoads said. “He’s like my best friend and that pumped me up, I know that pumped the whole team up and that just set us off from there.”
Rhoads ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, Shelburne threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns and the Tigers’ defense gave up just a single fourth-quarter touchdown in Belton’s (2-0) all-around win a week after needing a last-second field goal to beat Round Rock Stony Point.
“We just came out and executed our offense,” said Shelburne, who was 10-of-15 passing. “We put up points on them early and they couldn’t come back from that.”
The Vikings (1-2) scored a field goal and a defensive touchdown in the first half and an offensive touchdown in the final four minutes of Hall of Fame and former Harker Heights coach Ross Rogers’ return to the Central Texas sidelines as the Vikings head coach.
“(The kickoff return) certainly set the tone,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t affect the game plan. They were just up 7-0 and we just had to keep playing.”
Aided by a pair of personal foul penalties, Shelburne threw touchdown passes of 44 and 33 yards to Camron Meyers and Derick Bates for a 21-3 lead with 2 minutes left in the first quarter.
Belton led 14-0 before Bryan scored on Jose Falcon’s 42-yard field goal with 4:53 left.
Rhoads’ 32-yard scamper set up his first touchdown, a 9-yard run for a 28-3 Belton lead at the 9:17 mark in the second quarter.
“This group of kids is one of those that when you realize it was a coach, that they’ve got ‘it,’” Southern said. “You don’t really know what ‘it’ is, but I think they’ve got it. ... They love playing together and they’re confident and confidence is a big thing. They’re definitely confident right now, so we just have to keep it going.”
Bryan’s only first-half touchdown came on an 86-yard fumble return by Derrick Smith.
Belton’s Kyle Battle intercepted Vikings’ quarterback Chris Johnson’s first thrown pick this season, but after driving to the Bryan 19-yard line, Shelburne was stripped of the ball on a quarterback keeper by Devin Marshall and Smith picked up the ball on a hop en route to the defensive touchdown 2½ minutes before halftime.
Belton led 28-10 at the intermission and went straight back to work in the second half.
The Tigers’ defense, which gave up just 332 yards total, forced a missed field goal try on the Vikings’ opening drive of the third quarter and Rhoads ran for 20 yards on his second touchdown to give Belton a 35-10 lead with 5:55 left in the period.
Banks’ touchdown catch cut the Tigers’ lead to 35-16 after a missed PAT, but it took just three plays for the Tigers to answer. Meyers carried twice for 17 yards before Kyle Adamson sprinted 46 yards for Belton’s final touchdown with 1:53 left.
“Last week, we didn’t move the ball as successfully as we wanted to. This week we decided we needed to really step our game up,” Rhoads said.
“I feel like we’re really balanced in all aspects of the game, right now.”