By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
The last three years, Saturday hadn't been Belton's best day.
But that changed this year at the Division I 7-on-7 high school football state tournament in College Station when the Tigers were a two-point conversion away from playing for the consolation championship.
"We came out and played well, Saturday had been a rough time the last three times down here," said Belton 7-on-7 sponsor Mike Morgan. "We lost the first game every Saturday and to come out and get a win against Harlingen to start things off was big."
The opening 31-28 win over Harlingen set up the Tigers as they reeled off a 45-25 win over Wolfforth Frenship and a 33-26 win over Coppell before losing to San Antonio O'Connor 27-25 in the consolation semifinals.
"It was a really good tournament," Morgan said. "Yesterday we played well and we lost a close game that was the difference between us going to the championship bracket or the consolation. And three of the four teams in our pool all had great days (Saturday)."
Belton gave up a touchdown to O'Connor right before the half and then scored on its opening drive of the second half, putting the Tigers in a daunting 27-13 hole.
However, Derick Bates and Chase Thornal both had late touchdowns to pull Belton within two points with two minutes remaining. But, the Tigers' two-point conversion failed and the Panthers ran out the clock.
Durham Smythe and Bates both added first-half touchdowns in the loss.
Against Frenship, Belton fell down 19-13 at halftime, but came back in the second half behind Brandon Rhoads' three scores, including a bomb from quarterback Peter Shelburne to put the game away at 38-25.
"We played really solid, put them away pretty good," Morgan said.
Against Coppell in the quarterfinals, Bates opened the game with a touchdown catch and Mike Mitchell had an interception return for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 12-7.
The game was tied at 20-20 when Andrew Ewing scored and Smythe added a two-point conversion. Kyle Battle then put the game out of reach with a pick-6.
Thornal started his big day with four touchdown catches in the three-point win over Harlingen.
Plano defeated Manvel 45-28 to win the championship bracket and was led by tournament MVP quarterback Richard Lagow, who threw for seven touchdowns in the final game. Plano led by two scores most of the game and an interception with the clock dwindling by Tim Yoder closed out the victory, giving Plano its first 7-on-7 state championship.
The consolation final saw John Tyler defeat O'Connor 49-28 as quarterback Greg Ward threw five touchdown passes.
John Tyler had four interceptions in the game, with Darion Flowers and Isaac Warren returning theirs for consecutive touchdowns to end the game.