BELTON — Playing in their first game since Oct. 30, the Belton Tigers were understandably concerned about how they would physically respond in their first contest in three weeks. Belton also wanted to limit the explosive, big-play ability for which Ellison garnered a reputation around District 12-6A.
By halftime Friday night, the Tigers dispelled both those concerns — and then some.
Led by a successful running and passing combination, Belton amassed 525 yards of offense, used a 28-point second quarter to build a dominant lead and easily surpassed its mark for most points in a game this season with a 56-33 win over Ellison in the Tigers’ first game since overcoming COVID-19 issues that left several players in quarantine.
“It was exciting to finally get out there and play a different team,” said running back Maurice Reed, who had a game-high 169 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the Tigers. “It’s my senior year, so I’m taking every game I can at this point. I’m just playing every game like it’s my last.”
For a team that was forced to postpone its game against Harker Heights two weeks ago and cancel its district clash with Temple last week, Belton (3-5, 3-2) was far from rusty or lethargic. After exchanging scores with Ellison (2-7, 1-5) in the first quarter, the Tigers — who opened the scoring with a six-play, 99-yard drive that ended with Reed’s 1-yard run — scored on quarterback Ruben Jimenez’s run from a yard out to start the second frame. Belton then recovered its onside kick and capitalized with a 13-yard pass from Jimenez to Keagan Wolfe that made it 21-7 with 8:32 left in the first half.
Ellison drove down to the Belton 19-yard line on its next possession, but quarterback Faliefa Mauga fumbled and Charles Williams III recovered the ball for Belton. Reed found paydirt again with a 2-yard run that capped a seven-play, 82-yard drive for a 28-7 lead for the Tigers.
Both teams scored within the final minute of the first half, as Jimenez connected with Seth Morgan for a 30-yard TD pass and Ellison’s Damashja Harris — who did everything possible to keep the Eagles in the game with 166 yards rushing and touchdowns runs of 23, 19 and 29 yards — returned the kickoff 74 yards to make it 35-14 at halftime.
“We finally scored more than 33, so it felt good,” said Belton head coach Brett Sniffin, whose Tigers had yet to surpass the 33-point mark this season entering Friday. “The kids did a good job of getting themselves in shape this week. We executed and had a clean sheet. No turnovers. We made every extra point. We do those things, good things happen.”
Ellison, who also was idle last week because of COVID-19 health concerns with its opponent Copperas Cove, trimmed Belton’s lead to 14 after the Tigers punted on their opening drive of the second half. Ellison responded with Harris’ second touchdown run that made it 35-21 midway through the third. Jimenez — who finished 12-for-17 and two touchdowns passing, and 67 yards and two scores rushing — drove Belton 50 yards in nine plays and scored with a 4-yard run on the Tigers’ ensuing drive.
Again, Harris kept the Eagles within reach with a 29-yard burst that made it 42-27 after the extra-point kick was blocked, but Belton continued to roll offensively with a 2-yard TD run by Reed with 9 minutes left in the game and a 14-yard scoring run by Wriley Madden with less than 3 minutes remaining.
“Execution, really good reads by Ruben and just going out there and catching the ball,” said Morgan, who also had a 54-yard reception to go along with his touchdown catch. “We need (the momentum from Friday’s win). Our main goal is to make the playoffs. Two more wins and we’re in there.”
Harker Heights 3-2
Copperas Cove 0-5
y-clinched district title
- Temple 27, Shoemaker 24
- Belton 56, Ellison 33
- Bryan def. Copperas Cove, forfeit
- Harker Heights 52, Killeen 23