By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Rodney Southern wanted to give his players the real Friday Night Lights experience.
And Kyle Battle, for one, really appreciated it. And it showed in his play.
With the lights on and a sizeable crowd filling the stands, the Belton junior defensive back returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown with six minutes left and helped spark the White team to a come-from-behind 14-13 victory Friday in the annual Red-White Game at Tiger Stadium.
"I liked it a whole lot more (playing in) an actual game, and feeling real pumped about everything," Battle said. "Everybody could get the feel of a real game and then everybody could just feel natural, like this is how it's supposed to be happening."
While many coaches prefer their final spring practice - usually designated a spring game - to be more like a structured scrimmage, Southern threw caution to the wind and mixed and matched his starters and reserves to compete in a game-like situation for two 15-minute halves.
"The big thing for us is at the end of spring, you want to create some kind of atmosphere that's game-like," Southern said. "This is as close as we could get to that."
For those in attendance eager to see four-star tight end Durham Smythe, who committed to Texas earlier this spring, they may have left disappointed after the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder finished with just one catch for 6 yards.
Although Smythe was targeted a few times by freshman White team quarterback Shane Stafford, Southern admitted that was more by design than anything else.
"There are some other things we're going to do with Durham. I don't know who was sitting in those stands tonight, but they're not going to see that," Southern joked. "Not yet anyway."
Returning starting quarterback Peter Shelburne started the Red team off with a 90-yard scoring drive on 13 plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback Brandon Rhoads, who fumbled the ball as he crossed the goal line only to have junior center Austin Farr fall on it for the score.
Rhoads (13 carries for 74 yards) made up for that mistake with a 3-yard score several drives later after a 57-yard touchdown run was called back for holding earlier in the series.
Working with mostly backups at receiver, Shelburne finished 9-of-19 for 91 yards but threw two costly interceptions to junior White team safety Garrett Curry on back-to-back drives, the last of which clinched the White win with 2:23 left in the game.
Stafford, throwing to several returning receiver starters, completed 13-of-21 passes for 242 yards and the game-winning 70-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Anthony McCosham with less than three minutes to play.
The play helped McCosham (3 catches for 113 yards) redeem himself after losing a fumble in the end zone following a 38-yard reception on the previous drive.
Stafford, the son of former Texas quarterback Bret Stafford (1985-87), also threw an interception to sophomore linebacker Chase McCosham late in the second half. But Stafford was able to redeem himself and get the victory.
"We've tried to push those seven or eight young kids because right now, if I had to say today, three of those young kids are going to play, and they're going to play a lot," Southern said. "So we've got to be able to put them in as tough a situation as we can."