FOOTBALL PREVIEW CAPSULE: Belton, Harker Heights duel tonight for final District 12-6A playoff berth
By GREG WILLE
HARKER HEIGHTS (6-3, 4-2) at
BELTON TIGERS (3-6, 3-3)
7 p.m. Thursday, Tiger Field
Last week: Harker Heights 42, Copperas Cove 20; Killeen Shoemaker 27, Belton 21 (OT)
Last year: Belton 21, Harker Heights 14
Game notes: Harker Heights has won twice as many games this season as Belton has, but that won't matter much if the host Tigers beat the Knights in tonight's win-or-stay-home showdown. The winner will seize District 12-6A's fourth and final playoff berth; the loser's season will end. . . . The Belton-Heights victor will enter the Class 6A Division I playoff bracket and play a bi-district game next week at second-ranked Duncanville (6-1), the state runner-up in 2018 and 2019. . . . The Belton-Heights game originally was scheduled for Nov. 6 but was rescheduled for tonight after COVID-19 cases and quarantines left the Tigers unable to play that game and their Nov. 13 game at rival Temple, which went down as a forfeit loss for Belton. . . . With playoff-bound Killeen Shoemaker and Bryan having completed district with 5-2 records, Heights can get into a three-way share of second place behind 7-0 champion Temple. If Belton wins, it will tie Heights for fourth and the Tigers will advance to postseason play by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker. . . . Both Belton and Heights went into overtime against Shoemaker. The Knights of head coach Jerry Edwards rallied late and prevailed 51-50; head coach Brett Sniffin's Tigers were edged 27-21 at home last Friday. . . . Belton went 0-3 in non-district games, but the Tigers can post a winning district record and make the playoffs in veteran coach Sniffin's first season at the helm. . . . Belton's offense is triggered by experienced dual-threat senior quarterback Ruben Jimenez, who's passed for 1,470 yards and 12 touchdowns and run for 564 yards and 10 TDs. Senior workhorse Maurice Reed has rushed for 1,090 yards and nine TDs. Junior tight end Bryan “Itty” Henry (35 receptions, 568 yards, five TDs) and senior receiver Kanyn Utley (35-411-2) are Jimenez's top targets. . . . Senior linebacker Joe Sniffin, the coach's son, paces Belton's defense with 68 tackles, while junior safety Aaron Bain has 50 stops and two interceptions and junior cornerback Trent West has a team-high three interceptions. . . . At 6-3, Harker Heights has clinched its first winning season since it went 6-5 in 2016. Edwards has a 31-50 record in eight seasons with the Knights, who reached the playoffs last year with a 4-6 regular-season mark. . . . Heights led Temple 20-0 in the second quarter on Oct. 29 before the visiting Wildcats charged back for a 38-36 victory. . . . Heights senior QB Shaun West has passed for 1,615 yards and 16 touchdowns but did not play in the win over Copperas Cove last week because of injury. He was replaced by hulking junior Terrance Carter, who threw for 129 yards and a TD. Carter this season has 34 catches for 555 yards and six TDs, plus six rushing TDs. . . . Junior Marcus Maple is another potent target in the passing game, with 35 catches for 626 yards and six TDs. . . . Leading the Knights' rushing attack are sophomore Re'shaun Sanford with 1,036 yards and sophomore Aimeer Washington with 391 yards and 12 TDs. . . . Senior safety Christopher Sistrunk paces the Heights defense with 89 tackles, while senior lineman Jack Byse has 83 tackles and eight sacks and senior safety Savonte Sanford-Paige has 76 tackles and three interceptions.