WEEK 5 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Belton begins 12-6A at Cove; Lake Belton seeks 5-0; Academy, Lorena collide
By GREG WILLE
BELTON – The momentum Belton gained in its season-opening win at Georgetown was slowed by back-to-back home losses to Round Rock and Pflugerville Hendrickson. However, the Tigers have an opportunity to get back on the proverbial horse when they begin District 12-6A competition against winless Copperas Cove at 7:30 tonight at Bulldawg Stadium.
Both Belton (1-2) and Cove (0-3) had their open dates last week. The Bulldawgs of second-year head coach Jason Hammett have lost 10 consecutive games dating to last season, and Cove is 4-19 overall in the last three seasons.
Coach Brett Sniffin’s Tigers produced plenty of offense in their season-opening 35-31 victory at Georgetown, but the Tigers were limited the next two weeks as they lost 35-0 to Round Rock and then 17-14 to Hendrickson. Belton’s offense is averaging 243 yards per game.
Tigers sophomore quarterback Ty Brown (427 passing yards, four touchdowns) has a pair of skilled targets in seniors Seth Morgan (16 catches, 212 yards, two TDs) and Houston-committed tight end Bryan “Itty” Henry (nine receptions, 126 yards, two TDs).
Junior linebacker Donovan Thompson has 25 tackles and senior safety Aaron Bain has 23 stops for a Belton defense that’s allowed 292.3 yards per game. Tigers senior cornerback Connor Whitman has two interceptions.
Copperas Cove has struggled on defense in losses to Round Rock Stony Point (69-27), Georgetown (63-39) and Austin Bowie (42-28), permitting 532.3 yards per game. The Bulldawgs have two effective running backs with Craig Brown (335 yards, one touchdown) and Malcom Roberts (154 yards, six TDs). Senior quarterback Shane Richey has passed for 377 yards and one TD.
Belton’s first home district game at Tiger Field will be against Bryan (0-3) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
Lake Belton shoots for 5-0 start
in home battle vs. Katy Jordan
The second-year Lake Belton Broncos have ripped off four consecutive wins to begin their first varsity season, and they’ll be halfway to a 10-0 season if they defeat Katy Jordan (1-3) in tonight’s matchup that kicks off at 7 at Tiger Field on the Belton High School campus.
Coach Brian Cope’s Lake Belton team earned a 28-14 home victory against Cameron Yoe a week ago. Junior D’Arius Wilkerson rushed for two short touchdowns, sophomore Micah Hudson had a 15-yard TD run and Connor Crews threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to fellow junior Jaydon Leza early in the fourth quarter to provide some breathing room.
After shutting out winless Yoe in the first half, the Broncos’ defense allowed two rushing touchdowns to Phaibian Bynaum in the second half. Junior safety Javeon Wilcox has made a team-leading 46 tackles for Lake Belton, which has permitted only 17.3 points per game.
Junior linebacker Connor Brennan has 28 tackles, junior cornerback Bruce Onchweri has 27 stops and sophomore Ty Legg made a diving interception to stop a Yoe drive in the first half.
Like Lake Belton, Jordan is a second-year school playing its first varsity season. The Warriors beat Danbury 57-0 on Sept. 3 for their first varsity win. They’re coming off of a 52-45 loss last week at San Antonio Davenport, which handed the Broncos their only loss last year but later lost the rematch at Lake Belton.
The Broncos defeated the Warriors twice last season, and the schools will meet twice again this year. Jordan, whose campus is located in Fulshear, is scheduled to host Lake Belton at noon on Oct. 16.
After another 4-0 non-district run, Academy
hosts Lorena in intriguing league-opening duel
LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – For the second straight season, the Academy Bumblebees ran the table in non-district play for a 4-0 record. In tonight’s District 11-3A Division I opener at 7:30 at John Glover Stadium, they’ll try to flip last year’s script by defeating defending league champion Lorena (2-2).
One year ago, the Leopards stopped the Bees’ unbeaten run with a 41-27 win in Lorena. Academy went on to grab the district’s fourth and final playoff berth at 3-3 in head coach Chris Lancaster’s first season, while the Lorena squad of veteran head coach Ray Biles won the league title outright at 5-1.
Both teams lost in the playoffs to eventual state runner-up Hallettsville – the Bees in bi-district and the Leopards in a Region III semifinal.
Academy completed its perfect non-district run last Friday with a 30-28 win at previously unbeaten Lago Vista, highlighted by senior kicker Blake Bundy’s go-ahead 30-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining. It was Bundy’s third field goal of the night.
A 74-yard run by junior Brayden Bartlett was the only offensive touchdown for the Bees, who got two defensive TDs from senior linebacker Darion Franklin – a 35-yard fumble return in the first quarter and a 33-yard interception return in the second.
On the negative side for Academy, sophomore two-way lineman Tyler Burnett was lost to a lower-leg injury.
Bees sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz has passed for 815 yards and nine touchdowns, and his top target is junior receiver Scout Brazeal with 19 catches for 458 yards and four TDs. Junior linebackers Lane Ward and Clayton Lawson lead the Bees with 44 and 33 tackles, respectively, and safety Brazeal has 30 stops and an interception.
Academy’s defense will face a major challenge against Lorena’s productive attack. Senior quarterback Ryne Abel has thrown for 717 yards and five touchdowns, passing primarily to dangerous sophomore Jadon Porter (18 catches, 288 yards, three TDs) – last year’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year in the district – and junior Kason Taylor (14 catches, 232 yards, one TD). The Leopards also have an effective runner in senior Reed Michna, who’s rushed for 365 yards and six touchdowns.
Lorena has last year’s district Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior tackle Joe Gutshall, who’s made 19 tackles (five for loss) this year.
The Leopards lost their first two games this season against strong competition: 27-20 to 3A Division II No. 1-ranked Franklin and 21-13 at 4A D-II stalwart China Spring. Lorena bounced back by beating Gatesville 54-0 and winning 49-16 at Madisonville last week.
At 2-2, Rogers seeks to get on a roll in
district opener vs. familiar foe Buffalo
ROGERS – After the Rogers Eagles emerged from a challenging non-district schedule with a 2-2 record, they aim to take that experience and turn it into a strong run in District 13-3A Division II play, which begins against Buffalo (1-3) at 7:30 tonight at Merk Field.
Coach Charlie Roten’s Rogers squad led 3A D-I West 28-27 entering the fourth quarter a week ago, but the visiting Trojans used a 2-yard touchdown run by Gage Gordon and his 2-point run to seize a 35-28 victory.
Expolosive Eagles senior Christian Riley turned in an outstanding performance, rushing for 209 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries along with a 2-point run. His TDs covered 16, 78 and 66 yards. Riley Dolgener threw a 60-yard TD pass to Zach Davis.
Senior Jordan Werner collected 19 tackles against West and leads the Eagles with 34 stops this season, while junior Brice Lisenbe has 26.
Rogers is very familiar with tonight’s district-opening opponent, Buffalo. It will be their fourth matchup in the last three seasons. The Eagles rallied past the Bison for a 36-33 bi-district playoff win in 2019, but Buffalo responded last year by beating Rogers 46-28 in district play and then edging the Eagles 37-35 in a Region IV semifinal.
A 19-9 win at Palestine Westwood three weeks ago was Buffalo’s first win with new head coach Evan Stone, but the Bison come to Rogers after consecutive losses to Crockett (59-42) and Teague (27-18).
After blowing out Mexia, Salado shoots
to defeat Taylor in non-district finale
SALADO – On the heels of dismantling Mexia 57-0 at home last Friday, the Salado Eagles (2-2) seek their first two-game winning streak this season when they host the improved Taylor Ducks (3-1) at 7:30 tonight at Eagle Stadium.
It’s Salado’s fifth and final non-district game before the Eagles begin defense of their District 9-4A Division II championship next Friday at Gatesville.
Salado dominated host Taylor 49-3 a year ago, but the Ducks have made strides in their first season with head coach Brandon Houston. Houston was an assistant coach on Rockdale’s Class 3A Division I state championship team in 2017 and then coached Buffalo to a 32-6 record from 2018-20 before taking the Taylor job.
Salado’s traditional Slot-T rushing attack of head coach Alan Haire is getting balanced production from senior Aidan Wilson (492 yards, five touchdowns) and juniors Caden Strickland (303 yards, four TDs) and Seth Reavis (274 yards, two TDs).
Eagles senior quarterback Hutton Haire has been efficient and productive when he has passed, throwing for 389 yards and six touchdowns. He connected with senior tight end Gavyn Keyser for two TDs totaling 78 yards against Mexia.
Salado’s defense recorded its second shutout victory of the season last week. The Eagles’ leaders on that side include Josh Huckabee with 39 tackles, Nolan Miller with 38, Nic Bates with 37 and Braydon Sumners with 33.
Taylor brings a two-game winning streak to Salado after beating Giddings 48-28 and La Vernia 18-14. Ducks dual-threat sophomore quarterback Joshua Mikulencak has passed for 679 yards and eight touchdowns, and junior Jarvis Anderson has 365 rushing yards and three TDs to go with 203 receiving yards and five TDs. Junior Connor Cobb has 14 receptions for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
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