By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
David Ash did most of the work, but the Belton quarterback had a little help - courtesy of his Harker Heights counterpart.
Two fourth-quarter fumbles by Knights junior quarterback C.J. Rodriguez negated a career-high 174-yard, three touchdown performance from senior scat-back Daevon Brown, and Belton notched its first win of the season, 41-37 over Heights on Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
"It was like we had a monkey on our back, and in the first few games, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong," said Ash, who led the Tigers (1-4, 1-1 in District 12-5A) with five touchdowns and a combined 309 yards of total offense.
"We made mistakes tonight, but I'm just happy we overcame them and got the win."
Although Heights' attacking defense forced three Belton fumbles - two of which were recovered by Heights defensive back Deshaun Dickens, including one he returned 75 yards for a touchdown for a 13-6 first quarter advantage - it came down to three second half fumbles by Rodriguez - who was a perfect 4-for-4 for 58 yards and a 18-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bullock - including two that ended promising fourth quarter drives.
An offensive shootout most of the game, the Knights (2-3, 1-1) run-first offense finally found some consistency on the legs of Brown, whose three first-half scores helped Heights keep pace with the dynamic passing of Ash, who was 11-of-18 for 264 yards through the air.
But, after Rodriguez's go-ahead touchdown pass to Bullock with 1:23 left in the third quarter, the Tigers answered with some tricks of their own.
In punt formation on a fourth-and-four situation, Belton senior linebacker Tyler Vail took the direct snap and barreled 22 yards inside Heights territory. Two plays later, Ash drilled tight end Darius Ewing for a 26-yard touchdown that put Belton back on top 41-37 with 11:39 still to play in the fourth.
Heights had a golden opportunity to retake the lead on the ensuing drive, but Rodriguez fumbled a handoff attempt on a third-and-goal situation and Belton senior defensive tackle Stephen Honeywood recovered at the Tigers' own 11 yard line with 8:25 left.
Heights then forced Belton to punt for just the second time all game, but with the ball on the verge of Tigers territory following six consecutive runs by Brown, Rodriguez fumbled on a sack by Tigers defensive back Darrius White, who quickly recovered the ball with just under three minutes remaining.
From there, the Belton ground game took over and the Tigers were once again winners.
For the second straight game, senior defensive end Vladimir Gray and senior tailback Deandre Jones were not in uniform for the Knights. Both are "not on the football team at this time," according to Knights coach Mike Mullins. Heights was also without two of its four preseason quarterback candidates in junior Greg Haynes and sophomore Rasheed Dashiell, who has transferred to Killeen.