BRONCOS GAIN REDEMPTION: Crews, Robin, defense help Lake Belton win 30-15 for revenge vs. Davenport
BIG-TIME PERFORMANCE: Lake Belton sophomore running back Tristan Robin was outstanding in the Broncos' 30-15 win Friday night over previously unbeaten San Antonio Davenport at Belton High School's Tiger Field. The 5-foot-6, 150-pound Robin carried 20 times for 138 yards and a pair of 1-yard touchdowns to help Lake Belton (8-1) avenge its only defeat, 42-35 to the host Wolves on Sept. 4. Sophomore quarterback Connor Crews also had two rushing TDs for coach Brian Cope's Broncos, who will complete their debut season next Thursday night at home against the Dripping Springs junior varsity. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
BELTON – When an 8-0 team clashes with a 7-1 squad toward the end of high school football's regular season, normally that means a district championship and seedings for the state playoffs are at stake.
Along with 2020 having been anything but a normal year, Lake Belton and San Antonio Davenport are first-year high schools whose football programs won't compete in official University Interscholastic League districts until the 2022 season. That means no district championships or playoff berths to battle for until those schools' current sophomores and freshmen who are playing at the junior varsity level become seniors and juniors, respectively, on the varsity stage two years from now.
Nonetheless, Lake Belton found plenty of motivation for its showdown with Davenport in the Broncos' inaugural Friday night game at Tiger Field on the Belton High School campus. It was the Wolves who dealt the Broncos their lone loss in a 42-35 shootout Sept. 4 at Davenport, and head coach Brian Cope's Lake Belton team immediately circled the schools' Oct. 30 rematch on its calendar.
The previously unbeaten Wolves seized an early 7-0 lead, but Connor Crews and Tristan Robin rushed for two touchdowns apiece to energize a lively home crowd and Lake Belton controlled the bulk of the game as the Broncos charged to a satisfying 30-15 victory that avenged their only defeat and left both talented, youthful squads with 8-1 records entering next week's season finales.
“They were always in the back of our mind,” Robin, a quick, rugged sophomore who compiled 138 yards on 20 carries in the rematch, said about Davenport. “We went through every game and worked that week for that game, but we always had this game in the back of our mind. We always circled this game, (knowing) that this is going to be what makes or breaks our season.
“We prepared for it and everybody did their job. We have some spectacular athletes and everybody plays an integral part on this team. Our coaches did a great job of preparing us for this game.”
Cope, who was hired to build Lake Belton's program from the ground up after he served three seasons as Belton's offensive coordinator, made it clear that his Broncos had been hungry for another shot at the Comal ISD-based Wolves – who had shut out four opponents and limited two others to six points each – for almost two full months.
“Man, our kids circled this game when we were on the bus on the way home (from Davenport). A lot of times in life you don't get a second chances, and we did,” Cope said. “And our kids answered the call. I'm really proud of them. What an awesome night to be a Bronco.”
Cope said he and Davenport head coach J.D. Zimmerhanzel already have agreed to have their teams begin the 2021 season against each other.
Trailing 23-7 early in the fourth quarter, Davenport made it a one-possession game at 23-15 with 7:48 remaining on Zahir Livingston's 1-yard touchdown run and Triston Hamlin's 2-point pass to Judge Erickson.
However, Robin scored on 1-yard runs for the first and last of Lake Belton's four touchdowns, and his final TD with 1:50 remaining sealed the outcome, allowing the Broncos and their fans to celebrate a revenge win over the Wolves. Because Lake Belton won't have its first graduating class until 2023, it billed the Davenport game as its “forthcoming” instead of homecoming.
Crews, Lake Belton's sophomore quarterback, used his 6-foot-2, 210-pound body to do damage against Davenport's previously stingy defense. He rushed 12 times for 46 yards, highlighted by a 2-yard touchdown 24 seconds before halftime to give the Broncos their first lead at 14-7 and his 9-yard TD 2 minutes into the third period for a commanding 20-7 advantage.
“He's a different breed. He means so much to our team,” Robin said of Crews, who's run for 546 yards and nine touchdowns and shares the team lead in rushing TDs with Robin.
CREWS CONTROL: Lake Belton sophomore quarterback Connor Crews helped the Broncos defeat previously unbeaten San Antonio Davenport 30-15 on Friday night at Belton High School's Tiger Field. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Crews scored touchdowns of 2 and 9 yards as part of his 46-yard rushing performance and was 6-of-11 passing for 97 yards, highlighted by sophomore Connor Bartz's 50-yard catch-and-run play as Lake Belton improved to 8-1. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Crews was 6-of-11 passing for 97 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run by sophomore Connor Bartz (three receptions, 65 yards) that led to Crews' 9-yard touchdown keeper 2 minutes after halftime. Athletic, versatile freshman Micah Hudson rushed five times for 28 yards, made two catches for 19 yards and had a 25-yard punt return before halftime that helped set up Crews' go-ahead TD run.
Livingston ran for 69 yards and Shastin Golden had 68 to pace Davenport's 138-yard rushing output, and the left-handed Hamlin passed for 125 yards, highlighted by his 21-yard touchdown toss to Kyler Payne 3:50 into the game for a 7-0 Wolves lead.
Davenport entered the evening scoring 44.9 points per game, but Lake Belton's defense allowed only one touchdown in each half and put consistent pressure on Hamlin, who completed only two second-half passes.
“(Davenport) had been scoring a lot. To hold them to 15 points was a big deal. Coach (Randy) Hooton, our defensive coordinator, had a great plan and our kids executed. They were in the backfield all night long,” said Cope, who commended the performances of defenders such as sophomores Isaiah Koonce, Bruce Onchweri, Evan Roland and Javeon Wilcox and freshmen Hudson and Adam Walden. “Coach (Greg) Rudolph, our linebackers coach, had those kids ready and they really answered the call.”
Davenport won the coin toss, chose to get the ball first and made good on that decision. The Wolves drove from their 30-yard line well into Lake Belton territory before Payne beat his defender on the right side of the end zone to catch Hamlin's pass for a 21-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Davenport lead 3:50 into the game.
Undeterred, the Broncos responded with a long drive on their first possession. Hudson ran for a 14-yard gain and Robin broke off a powerful 24-yard rush to the Wolves 15. Crews bulled his way for a 5-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the 6, then Robin patiently ran off left tackle for his first 1-yard touchdown and a 7-7 deadlock after sophomore Cole Jackson's extra point with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
Davenport drove to Lake Belton's 16 2½ minutes into the second period, but on fourth-and-6 freshman linebacker Brandon Bell pressured Hamlin to force an incomplete pass for a key turnover on downs. Although the Broncos then methodically marched to the Wolves 36 with 2½ minutes left until halftime, they couldn't capitalize on the drive. Defensive back Payne intercepted a Crews pass at the 18.
But Lake Belton's defense forced a three-and-out series, and a short punt combined with Hudson's 25-yard return set the Broncos up at the Davenport 27 with 1:32 remaining before halftime. Robin ran for gains of 7 and 14 yards to reach the 6, then Crews kept for 4 yards before following his right tackle for a 2-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left, giving Lake Belton its first lead and the advantage for good.
“That was a huge drive before the end of the half to go up 14-7,” Cope said. “And once again, our kids won the second half. I'm really proud of how they answered.”
Lake Belton received the second-half kickoff and immediately went to work on expanding its lead. Crews fired a pass over the middle to Bartz, who wasn't tackled until he had recorded a 50-yard gain to Davenport's 22. Robin ran for 7 and 6 yards, then Crews used sophomore receiver Connor Vybiral's stellar block on the left side to scamper in for a 9-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead.
With Lake Belton facing fourth-and-1 at the Davenport 32 late in the third, Hudson used shifty moves to escape tacklers for a 7-yard gain. The drive stalled at the 9 before Jackson kicked a 26-yard field goal to push the Broncos' advantage to 23-7 15 seconds into the fourth.
In a rare breakdown by Lake Belton's defense, Emmet Greiman grabbed a Hamlin pass on the Wolves' ensuing possession and sprinted for a 61-yard pickup to the 21. Livingston rumbled for 17 yards, then stretched the ball across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. When Hamlin rolled left and threw back to the right to hit Erickson for the 2-point conversion, Davenport made it a one-possession game at 23-15 with 7:48 remaining.
In what might be described as gut-check time, the Broncos proved they were up to the task. Robin cut for a 15-yard run to the Wolves 35, Crews charged ahead for 10 yards to the 20 on third-and-5 and Robin added a 7-yard rush to the 13. After a penalty pushed Lake Belton back to the 26, Crews hit Hudson for a 13-yard pass and kept for a tough 4-yard gain to the 9 on third-and-3.
Robin's hard rush off left tackle picked up 8 yards before the 5-6, 150-pound back easily ran up the middle for his second 1-yard touchdown and a 30-15 score with 1:50 remaining, giving the Broncos their long-awaited opportunity to celebrate a redemptive victory over Davenport.
“He's a downhill runner,” Cope said of Robin. “I'm really proud of all our running backs. Brandon Bell did a great job blocking. Daniel Hardin had an unbelievable block. Connor Crews is kind of a fullback, and Micah's back there as well. It's a lot of fun to mix and match. They all did a great job tonight.”
Robin also plays linebacker but has taken on more responsibility at running back as Lake Belton's debut season has progressed. On a night when he excelled in an important game with 138 yards and two touchdowns, he deflected the credit to sophomore offensive linemen Logan Gandara, Christian Kunz, Julius Lechuga, Jackson Myers and Dominic Simpson.
“I run behind them. They lead and do a great job of it. They're a special group of guys who put their head down and work,” said Robin, who's rushed for 585 yards on 66 carries and admitted that he and his teammates already are thinking about contending for a district championship and playoff success in 2022. “We have so many good athletes that we can give it to anybody and they're all going to make a play. It's crazy. Everybody can do something special with the ball. I couldn't care less about my carries. I just want to win.”
Lake Belton will aim to complete its first season at 9-1 when the Broncos host Dripping Springs' top JV team next Thursday night at Tiger Field.
“The kids enjoyed every moment. You could see it in warmups with the smiles on their faces,” Cope said of his team's victory over Davenport. “The way they played and executed, it was so much fun.”
LAKE BELTON 30,
SAN ANTONIO DAVENPORT 15
Davenport 7 0 0 8 – 15
Lake Belton 7 7 6 10 – 30
Davenport – Kyler Payne 21 pass from Triston Hamlin (Nathan Cedillo kick), 6:10.
Lake Belton – Tristan Robin 1 run (Cole Jackson kick), 1:54.
Lake Belton – Connor Crews 2 run (Jackson kick), 0:24.
Lake Belton – Crews 9 run (kick failed), 8:04.
Lake Belton – Jackson 26 field goal, 9:45.
Davenport – Zahir Livingston 1 run (Judge Erickson pass from Hamlin), 7:48.
Lake Belton – Robin 1 run (Jackson kick), 1:50.
First downs: Davenport 12; Lake Belton 16.
Rushes-yards: Davenport 28-138; Lake Belton 42-202.
Passing yards: Davenport 125; Lake Belton 106.
Completions-attempts-interceptions: Davenport 7-17-1; Lake Belton 7-12-1.
Punts-average: Davenport 2-23; Lake Belton 1-38.
Fumbles-lost: Davenport 2-0; Lake Belton 1-0.
Penalties-yards: Davenport 3-15; Lake Belton 5-40.
Rushing – Davenport: Livingston 11-69, Shastin Golden 13-68, Hamlin 3-1, Latrell Ross 1-0; Lake Belton: Robin 20-138, Crews 12-46, Micah Hudson 5-28, Easton Hammond 1-2, Daniel Hardin 2-(-2), team 2-(-10).
Passing – Davenport: Hamlin 7-17-1-125; Lake Belton: Crews 6-11-1-97, Hammond 1-1-0-9.
Receiving – Davenport: Emmet Greiman 4-92, Payne 1-21, Gabe Martinez 2-12; Lake Belton: Connor Bartz 3-65, Hudson 2-19, Jaydon Leza 1-13, Connor Vybiral 1-9.