BELTON — The Tigers are still in prove-it mode.
Despite getting its most balanced offensive effort last week in its biggest win this season — a 41-14 pasting of Copperas Cove to open District 12-6A — Belton still is a long way from satisfied.
“We feel a little better after last week, but we have to prove we can do it back-to-back weeks,” head coach Brett Sniffin said. “It’s always nice to start anything out 1-0. We started out the season 1-0 and we started district 1-0. Now we want to see them hungry and want more of it.”
The Tigers (2-2, 1-0) will get their shot Friday night when they host Bryan (0-4, 0-1) in their homecoming game at Tiger Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Belton will look for back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
The Tigers hope to continue building off yet another strong defensive showing. Against the Bulldawgs, they forced three turnovers and held Cove scoreless for the final 32 minutes to turn a three-point game at halftime into a blowout.
Leading 17-14 at the break, the Tigers forced turnovers on three of four Bulldawgs possessions in the third quarter, including a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by Taylor Evans that pushed Belton’s lead to 17 midway through the frame.
Gabe Kalama (fumble recovery) and Kage Carmichael (interception) also provided turnovers.
It marked the second straight game Belton’s defense scored a touchdown. Carmichael also had a pick-six in the final non-district game Sept. 10 against Pflugerville Hendrickson.
“It’s nice when the defense can come through and score like that because we’ve been putting them in a bind with some of our turnovers,” said Sniffin, whose team fumbled twice in the first half against the Dawgs, and threw an interception in the second half.
Cove’s other third-quarter possession ended in a punt, as the Tigers held Cove to 28 total yards on its first 19 plays of the second half.
Other than a 40-yard kickoff return, the Bulldawgs didn’t move the ball past midfield until less than 2 minutes remained, when Malcom Roberts had a pair of runs for 41 and 16 yards.
After Roberts had 65 yards rushing in the first half, Belton held him to minus-2 yards in the second half until that final possession.
Belton, which scored on three of five second-half possessions and didn’t punt all game, outgained Cove 426-242 in total yards and had eight stops that went for losses.
“That’s what our defense is trying to do is cause havoc (in the backfield),” Sniffin said. “They did a good job, especially against a team that likes to grind it on the ground like (Cove).”
Sniffin expects Bryan to offer more of the same.
The Vikings have sputtered some offensively since losing starting quarterback Malcom Gooden for the season in Week 1 because of a broken leg.
But Bryan still likes to run the ball and relies on an above-average defense to keep it in games.
“To me, we were talking this morning and two scores could win this game with two defenses that can play well and offenses still trying to find themselves,” Sniffin said. “Bryan’s a lot better than their record, that’s for sure. They’ve struggled to find their identity on offense since their starting quarterback got hurt, but they can put it together at any time.”
Belton spread the ball around more last week than it had any time this season, getting 122 yards passing from Ty Brown and another 102 yards through the air from Slade LeBlanc.
The Tigers also had six players get at least one carry and eight players have at least one reception.
Elijah Warner led Belton with 137 yards rushing and 59 yards receiving, including two touchdowns.
It was the first time this season a Tigers runner eclipsed the century mark.
“That’s what we shoot for is a balanced offense,” Sniffin said. “It was nice to be able to do that, to try to keep the defense off-balance, so to speak.”
But Sniffin said Bryan will present a different challenge, with a defensive line that has some size and an experienced defensive backfield that features playmakers such as safety Du’Wayne Paulhill, who had three interceptions last week against Temple.
“He’s pretty good. We have to be aware of where he’s at on the field,” Sniffin said of Paulhill.
Belton was led last week by senior Aaron Bain’s nine tackles, giving him a team-high 32 on the year, followed next by linebacker Donovan Thompson at 31.
Seniors Kalama and Jonah Myers also had two tackles for loss against Cove, while four others had one apiece. Thompson and Tanner Conroy lead the way with five tackles for loss on the season.
Carmichael and Connor Whitman each have two interceptions, while Evans and Bain have one each.