BELTON — Food for thought. Fuel for the fire. Fixes to make first and foremost. Saturday’s film session revealed plenty to the Belton Tigers, whose 48-0 loss in last week’s season opener to Austin Westlake was the first shutout defeat since a 27-0 setback versus Round Rock Stony Point on Sept. 12, 2014.
Belton’s defense spent most of the hot, humid evening at Chaparral Stadium in Austin on the field as Westlake reeled off 535 yards through 75 plays, converted seven of 12 third downs, four of five fourth downs and scored on eight of 10 possessions. The Tigers’ offense, meanwhile, struggled to find traction and averaged just more than 3 yards per play en route to 135 overall in becoming the Chaparrals’ seventh shutout victim since the start of last season (16 games).
“The score last Friday didn’t show all the work that we put in,” Belton linebacker Grant Milligan said.
Indeed, Week 1 wasn’t the ideal way to kick off the fresh campaign. But none of what was analyzed set off panic alarms. Not after one week, anyway, Belton third-year head coach Sam Skidmore assured. Questions were raised, however, and areas of emphasis established, providing a launching point for practice as the Tigers prepare for Friday night’s home opener against Round Rock.
After all, practice makes perfect.
“Saturday morning, you grade your effort, you grade your execution, you grade your assignment by your guys and look at areas you need to improve and if you need to shift some pieces around,” said Skidmore, who lauded his young team’s never-give-up mentality against a squad he thinks is better than the one that advanced to the Class 6A Division II semifinals a year ago. “Defensively, I thought we played pretty good. We were on the field a lot but they flew around to the ball. We just need to figure out how to get off the field on third down.
“Offensively, it was just one guy every play, here or there, not executing their assignment, and that kind of hamstrung us a little bit. We can’t have mistakes. Football’s one of the greatest games out there because it takes all 11 guys doing their job to be successful.”
Skidmore said the offense’s growth this week will hinge on producing an effective rushing attack, which was mostly muted a week ago. The Tigers averaged more than 125 yards rushing per game each of the last two seasons under Skidmore, including 2017 when Belton churned out 238 a night.
“We are focused really hard this week on cleaning everything up because, at the end of the day, our execution wasn’t good,” Skidmore said.
Dragons in town
Belton and Round Rock are set to square off for the fourth straight season. The Tigers are 3-0 in that span, with victories of 41-34, 38-14 and 45-24. Last year’s encounter was originally scheduled for a Thursday in Round Rock. Rain forced a 24-hour postponement and the contest ended up being played at Tiger Field because Dragon Stadium was booked the following night.
The Dragons, 6A-I area qualifiers last season, opened their year with a 42-34 win over Harker Heights.
“They have a good squad. Coach (Jeff) Cheatham always does a good job,” Skidmore said.
Round Rock’s balanced offense, driven by junior quarterback Seth Ford, collected 233 yards through the air and 235 on the ground against the Knights. Ford completed 12 of 19 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Nine of the passes and 183 of the yards went to senior receiver Collin Sullivan. Jordan Smart added three receptions for 50 yards and a score. Israel Morgan tallied 4.8 yards a carry toward a team-high 100 yards rushing.
“(Ford) does a good job of running the ball and distributing it around. So, offensively, they are very dynamic and explosive,” Skidmore said. “Defensively, they play hard and they’re still learning a new scheme. They are still growing in that scheme but they play really sound.”
Of note and numbers
-- Safety Tanner Holman’s 12 tackles against Westlake topped the Tigers in that category. Milligan had 11, and fellow linebacker Coby Trovinger and defensive lineman Logan Drake each had nine.
-- In his first varsity start, sophomore cornerback Trent West was named the team’s defensive MVP after tallying four tackles and three pass breakups. He also had an interception in the end zone negated by a penalty.
-- Sophomore Amiere Steward was credited with a fumble recovery after pouncing on the loose ball late in the fourth quarter.
-- Friday’s game is not only the Tigers’ home debut but also senior night.