Tigers

Belton’s Jason Stephens (15) tackles Round Rock’s Jordan Smart in last week’s loss. The Tigers are at Copperas Cove on Friday.

BELTON — On one hand last Friday, there was better production from the offense, three takeaways by the defense and another four quarters closer to what the Belton Tigers want to resemble as the season moves along.

But on the other was a 20-point halftime deficit after surrendering 30 points in the second quarter in an eventual 12-point loss to Round Rock that had its share of one step forward, two steps back.

Call it the “yeah, but” scenario.

“The coaches, and everybody, we really have to take the positives from last week because we did take a step forward. With a young team, you saw steps forward and you have to build off those steps,” Belton coach Sam Skidmore said. “There’s always growing pains involved. And everyone is in the same boat with their young kids. “But there is a lot we still have to clean up.”

So while Skidmore was pleased with the progress the Tigers’ offense made from Week 1 to Week 2 — 135 yards and zero points upped to a balanced 455 yards and 30 points — he lamented two turnovers and a bad snap on special teams that hindered his team’s chances of victory. And though the defense forced four fumbles and recovered three of them, it still surrendered more than 40 points and 500 yards in a second straight loss to start the season.

“Offensively, I think everybody settled down and started running the offense, and we started clicking and had some success. But we can’t put ourselves in holes with mistakes. And that seems to be our Achilles’ heel right now, is mistakes — self-inflicted. Round Rock is a good team, don’t get me wrong, but we hurt ourselves both offensively and defensively,” Skidmore said. “Defensively, we got them in long down and distance and they got out of it. We have to take advantage of those situations.”

It may seem nit-picky but when the margin for error decreases with each passing week, making sure all the details are in order becomes increasingly important.

Skidmore and his coaching staff aren’t looking for perfection, just consistency, and that’ll be even more significant in the District 12-6A opener Friday at Copperas Cove, where the Tigers will look to avoid starting a season 0-3 for the first time since 2013.

Belton opened 2017 with two consecutive losses before reeling off four wins in a row. Quarterback Ruben Jimenez said after Friday’s loss to the Dragons that whether the Tigers are 1-2 or 0-3 by this time next week isn’t in the team’s realm of thinking at this point. Game-planning to put the best product on the field against the Bulldawgs is the top priority since that’s the next team on the docket.

“We just take one opponent at a time. It was Westlake then Round Rock and now it’s on to Cove,” Jimenez said.

Skidmore said he expects a typically tough matchup from the Bulldawgs (1-1), who earned the league’s fourth and final playoff spot last season under then-first-year head coach Jack Alvarez by beating Temple in the regular-season finale.

The last two games between Belton and Cove were decided by a combined nine points — a 37-35 come-from-behind Bulldawgs win two years ago that clinched a postseason berth and a 35-28 Tigers victory last September.

“Two years in a row, we’ve had a 21-point lead on them at some point early in the game. Two years ago they came back to beat us and last year they came back and made it really tight at the end. It’s always a tough game, a close game between us and Cove, and it seems like that every year minus a couple anomalies here and there,” Skidmore said.

The Bulldawgs played a pair of tight contests ahead of their third straight home tilt to begin the year. They dropped a 41-38 nod to Burleson in the teams’ opener and defeated Manor last week 37-33. Micah Cox is averaging 147 yards rushing per game so far and has six touchdowns for Cove, which is churning out 266 yards on the ground to 90 through the air. Elijah Delacruz complements Cox in the backfield and owns 183 yards on 24 carries.

Russel Cochran and Shane Richey shared Cove’s quarterbacking duties during the first two games.

“Offensively, they do a great job with their scheme. It’s a scheme you don’t see very often and so it’s very unique and you have to get prepared for it. Coach Alvarez does a great job. He knows exactly what to do to take advantage of you,” Skidmore added.

Change up on offense

D’emante Smith started as Belton’s No. 1 running back on the depth chart for Week 1 but was moved to wide receiver in the lead up to facing Round Rock partly in response to the Tigers’ need for a boost offensively after they were shut out on opening night by Austin Westlake.

“D’emante brings another level of explosiveness out there at receiver. We had some need to get better and more explosive at receiver, and D’emante was that answer. And he did a great job,” Skidmore said.

Smith was a receiver through his sophomore season before a call up to varsity a year ago. The senior showed he hadn’t lost a step out wide, hauling in touchdown catches of 71 and 30 yards against the Dragons en route to five receptions for 142 yards. That switch made room for fellow seniors Mike Davis and Nicholas Cipolla in the backfield, and Davis promptly recorded his first varsity 100-yard rushing game. Jimenez, meanwhile, broke free for a career-high 130 yards rushing and two scores.

Tackles and such

 After making 16 tackles Friday, linebacker Coby Trovinger now leads the Tigers with 25 this season and has the squad’s lone sack through two games. Fellow linebacker Grant Milligan has 23 tackles.

 Linebacker Jeremiah Wade was credited with two forced fumbles against the Dragons. Edrick Holcombe and Milligan forced one each.

 Sophomore cornerback Trent West will be back for Belton after missing last week with an injury. Another sophomore, Noah Newman, started in his place.

 Luke Bramlett and Smith are tied for the team lead with eight receptions apiece.