By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - When it's crunch time and he needs a score, Belton senior quarterback Peter Shelborne knows exactly where he's going to - Derick Bates.
"When it's crunch time, you've got to give it to the guys you know are going to make the plays," Shelborne said.
The only problem, McGregor quarterback Troy Allison has the same connection with Marcus Irons and Cory Kyei.
The Bulldog trio connected with ease and Irons hauled in 10 catches for 176 yards as 2A McGregor held off a Belton rally and edged the host Tigers 37-36 in the championship game of the inaugural Lone Star Shootout 7-on-7 tournament Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
"We played good, we just had a bad first half," Shelborne said. "They came out and gave us a different look defensively, so that kind of threw us off in the beginning, and they made a couple of great plays on tipped balls for interceptions."
Bates also had three touchdown receptions, including a highlight-reel, back-shoulder catch in which he turned one way before quickly twisting his body backwards in the air for a 45-yard score on the final play of the first half to cut McGregor's halftime lead to 18-9.
"Honestly, I got that move from baseball. It's a switch-shoulder turn, ... it worked out really well but it was kind of risky," Bates admitted. "I had to find the ball again, but it was a good catch."
Coming back at halftime, Belton pulled within a two-point conversion of McGregor with a 7-yard touchdown to Andre Ewing to make it 18-16. But each time the Tigers would score, the Bulldogs answered, at least until defensive back Kyle Battle shadowed Irons to force a three-and-out with less than 5 minutes left in the 20-minunte half.
Belton took its first lead on a 32-yard touchdown to Chase Thornal with 4:05 left, but that was more than enough time for Allison and Kyei to connect for one final score in the closing minute to bury Belton in its own tournament.
Shoemaker's varsity, sans Baylor running back recruit Johnny Jefferson, managed to advance all the way to the championship semifinals after beating Copperas Cove's No. 1s 25-14 in the first round of bracket play.
Shoemaker Blue came within two late scores of winning it all after Belton Red edged the Grey Wolves with a touchdown in the final minutes to win their semifinal 36-23 and then China Spring retook the lead with less than a minute to play in a 23-21 comeback victory in the third-place game.
"We just have to learn how to finish games," said Shoemaker quarterback Ziere Banner. "Because we'd be up and we just have to learn how to finish them."
The Grey Wolves had one final shot at the end zone, but after pulling inside the 20 yard line in the closing seconds, two incomplete passes sealed their fate as time expired before they could snap it one last time.
"We're getting a lot better, I can feel it," Banner said. "We'll have something coming this fall."
The defending District 12-5A champions showed resiliency after their opening round defeat, rallying back from a 21-2 first half deficit to win on the first play of overtime when a Fabian Valenzuela interception ended the chances of Belton White before they ever got started. Bulldawgs quarterback Robbie Seybold threw four second half touchdowns to spark the comeback.