PRIME OPPORTUNITY: Belton can clinch first playoff berth since 2018 with win at slumping Shoemaker
TIME TO GET IT DONE: Belton senior cornerback Kage Carmichael (16), shown defending against Temple junior wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot on Oct. 15, will try to help the third-place Tigers (4-4, 3-2) secure a District 12-6A playoff berth when they battle fifth-place Killeen Shoemaker (3-4, 2-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen. Coach Brett Sniffin's Belton squad rallied for a 22-12 win at Killeen Ellison last Thursday. Meanwhile, a 60-15 loss at Temple last Friday was third straight defeat for Shoemaker's Grey Wolves. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
BELTON – It’s certainly noteworthy that Belton can record the 600th win in its football program’s history when the Tigers play Killeen Shoemaker at 7 p.m. Thursday in a key District 12-6A matchup at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen.
What’s more pressing at the moment, however, is the fact that Belton (4-4, 3-2) can clinch its first playoff berth since 2018 if it defeats the slumping Grey Wolves (3-4, 2-3) – losers of three consecutive games – in the Tigers’ second straight Thursday game at Buckley.
The Tigers of second-year head coach Brett Sniffin share third place with Bryan (3-5, 3-2) entering this week’s 12-6A games, with first-place Temple (6-2, 5-0) having clinched a playoff position and five other teams battling for the final three postseason berths. Harker Heights (7-1, 4-1) is alone in second place.
Belton already owns wins over Bryan and Killeen Ellison (3-5, 2-3), which is tied with Shoemaker for fifth place and will travel to Bryan on Friday.
A road victory by Belton against Shoemaker would ensure that the Tigers will finish no worse than 4-3 in district, and a 5-2 record would be more likely because Belton will host last-place Killeen (2-6, 0-5) next Friday in a regular-season finale.
However, a Belton loss at Shoemaker could prove problematic for the Tigers, even if they beat the Kangaroos to finish 4-3 in the league. The Grey Wolves can finish 4-3 in district by beating Belton and then defeating Ellison next Friday.
A 4-3 district record is possible for each of these five squads: Belton, Ellison, Harker Heights, Shoemaker and Bryan. But Heights would clinch at least a 5-2 mark with a win at seventh-place Copperas Cove (1-7, 1-4) on Friday, an Ellison loss at Bryan on Friday would eliminate the Eagles from a potential 4-3 finish, and a Shoemaker loss in either of its final two games would relegate the Grey Wolves to no better than a 3-4 mark.
A three-way deadlock between Belton, Ellison and Bryan would be advantageous for the Tigers because of their wins against both of them. But in the case of a three-way tie between Belton, Shoemaker and Bryan, those three all went 1-1 against each other and a tiebreaker scenario would have to be used to settle the playoff berths.
Temple has secured a spot in the Class 6A Division II playoffs, while Ellison and Belton – with 12-6A’s largest two enrollment figures, respectively – can only advance to the Division I bracket. Heights would compete in the Division II bracket only if Belton and Ellison reach the playoffs.
Belton bounced back from its 50-15 home loss to rival Temple two weeks ago by scoring a vital victory last Thursday at Ellison. The Tigers charged back from a 12-7 halftime deficit by outscoring the Eagles 15-0 after halftime for a 22-12 win.
Senior wide receiver Seth Morgan caught second-half touchdown passes of 15 and 27 yards from sophomore quarterback Ty Brown and finished with eight receptions for 92 yards. Brown threw a 62-yard TD pass to Houston-committed senior tight end Bryan “Itty” Henry (six catches, 108 yards) for the Tigers’ only first-half score.
Junior linebacker Donovan Thompson leads Belton with 56 tackles, senior linebacker Wriley Madden has 52 stops and senior safety Aaron Bain has 50. Kage Carmichael made his team-best fourth interception against Ellison, and fellow senior cornerback Connor Whitman has three interceptions. Senior linemen Braxton Haynes and Gabe Kalama made two sacks apiece against Ellison.
Meanwhile, Shoemaker is desperate to snap its three-game losing streak as head coach Toby Foreman’s Grey Wolves chase their third straight playoff berth. Shoemaker got off to a 2-0 start in 12-6A play but then lost 35-15 at Bryan, was edged 57-56 in overtime by Harker Heights and got overwhelmed in a 60-15 loss at Temple last Friday.
Fleet-footed senior quarterback and Penn State verbal commitment Omari Evans spearheads the Shoemaker offense. He’s rushed for 792 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for 809 yards and eight TDs. Jamarius Stewart has 702 rushing yards for the Grey Wolves, who were plagued by losing four fumbles against the Wildcats.
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