KILLEEN — Whatever could go right did go right for Harker Heights on Friday night at Leo Buckley Stadium, and that spelled bad news for Belton.
Though the Tigers moved the ball in spurts against the Knights, it wasn’t near enough as Heights’ offense displayed its explosiveness throughout the first half in a dominating 57-21 win over the Tigers in District 12-6A action.
The Knights (5-1, 2-1) scored on the third play from scrimmage on a Re’Shaun Sanford 46-yard run on a direct snap, during which Sanford went left, then cut across the field as he outraced the defense of Belton (3-3, 2-1) to the end zone.
It gave Heights the lead for good and was one of five first-half plays of 40-plus yards for the Knights, who came into the night averaging 50.4 points per game and reached that total by halftime.
Sanford, the district’s leading rusher who finished with 255 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries — giving him 1,181 yards rushing through the season’s first six games — accounted for two of those 40-plus plays. The other was an 82-yard scoring run, also on a direct snap, during which he broke several tackles at the end of the run to punch it in with 1:03 left before the half.
Sanford had 248 of his yards and four touchdowns on 15 first-half carries. He also scored on runs of 36 and 27 yards as Heights built a 50-7 halftime lead, while Marcus Maple added a touchdown on a 63-yard pass from Dylan Plake at the 5:05 mark of the second quarter.
Maple’s score came one play after Belton notched its first score of the night, when quarterback Ty Brown found Seth Morgan for a 40-yard burst down the right sideline to cut the Knights’ lead to 29-7 with 5:22 left in the second quarter. It was the closest Belton got all night.
It was Brown’s first possession under center, but the sophomore was intercepted on the Tigers’ following two drives, the last of which Heights’ Deaubry Hood returned for a 60-yard touchdown to finish the first-half scoring.
Hood ended the night with two picks, also getting one on Belton’s opening drive of the second half, which led to a 2-yard Sanford score three plays later and a 57-7 Heights lead.
Belton accounted for the final two touchdowns from there, on an Elijah Warner 17-yard run at the 4:25 mark of the third quarter, and on a 22-yard strike from Brown to Mason Munz with 5:15 left in the game.
Warner’s run capped an eight-play, 81-yard drive — the Tigers’ longest of the night — during which he had a 42-yard spurt for Belton’s longest play of the game.
The senior finished with a team-high 157 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Munz’s score came on a fourth-and-6 and finished off a 13-play drive to end the scoring for both teams.
Belton, which ran 45 first-half plays to Heights’ 24, twice drove into the Knights red zone during the opening 24 minutes, but each time couldn’t put up any points on the board.
Down 7-0, the Tigers advanced to the Heights 15-yard line on their opening drive but then stalled on three straight Slade LeBlanc incompletions.
After a 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, the Knights responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that Terrance Carter capped with a 2-yard scoring plunge to make for a 15-0 lead.
Belton later marched to the Knights 10-yard line on its first possession of the second quarter but was denied on a fourth-and-7 when a LeBlanc screen pass fell incomplete.
HARKER HEIGHTS 57, BELTON 21
Belton 0 7 7 7 — 21
Harker Heights 22 28 7 0 — 57
HH — Re’Shaun Sanford 46 run (Jai’den Fletcher kick)
HH — Terrance Carter 2 run (Sanford run)
HH — Sanford 36 run (Fletcher kick)
HH — Sanford 27 run (Fletcher kick)
Bel — Seth Morgan 40 pass from Ty Brown (Zach White kick)
HH — Marcus Maple 63 pass from Dylan Plake (Fletcher kick)
HH — Sanford 82 run (Fletcher kick)
HH — Deaubry Hood 60 interception return (Fletcher kick)
HH — Sanford 2 run (Fletcher kick)
Bel — Elijah Warner 17 run (White kick)
Bel — Mason Munz 22 pass from Brown (White kick)
First downs 24 17
Rushes-yards 38-181 35-360
Passing yards 248 174
Comp.-Att.-Int. 18-36-3 6-8-0
Punts-average 1-19 0-00.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-55 4-27
RUSHING — Belton: Slade LeBlanc 6-30, Warner 22-157, Ty Brown 2-(-15), Ritchie Willess 5-10, Dante Hudson 1-(-2), Ayon York 2-1; Harker Heights: Sanford 17-255, Carter 1-2, Aimeer Washington 2-36, Marcus Moultrie 12-65, Eric Jackson 1-4, Team 2-(-2).
PASSING — Belton: LeBlanc 5-16-0-60, Brown 13-20-3-188; Harker Heights: Plake 6-8-0-174.
RECEIVING — Belton: Bryan Henry 5-100, Angel Guerrero 5-27, Morgan 4-66, Garrett Mooney 1-5, AJ Baird 1-25, Josh Burrola 1-3, Mason Munz 1-22; Harker Heights: Maple 5-122, Carter 1-52.