The Belton Tigers Freshman Red football team finished their 2017 season on a positive note on Thursday night, as they took on the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs at Tiger Field.
Ruben Jimenez tossed two long touchdown passes and ran for two scores in the first half, as the Tigers held on for a 31-20 win over the Dawgs.
The Freshman Red squad finished 6-4 on the year.
The Tigers’ defense was tested early by the Dawgs’ running game. Cove had the ball for seven running plays to start the game and picked up 17, as Malik Jackson, Reid Pulliam and Ryan Harris were in busting up blocks in all seven sequences.
Belton’s first possession started at their own 28. After a four-yard loss on a bad snap, Jimenez spotted Luke Bramlett breaking free on the left side and let go a pass. Bramlett hauled in the pass and raced down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown. He booted the extra-point to give Belton a 7-0 lead with 5:27 to play in the first quarter.
Cove answered with a 59-yard drive, all on the ground, and scored from nine yards out. The PAT failed, which kept Belton with the slimmest of leads at one, 7-6, with 3:02 play in the first quarter.
Jimenez found Hunter Teplansky with a 13-yard pass to start Belton’s next scoring drive. After a pair of Ja’von Moore runs totaling 19 yards, Jimenez scored on an 8-yard run. Bramlett’s point-after kick was true, giving the Tigers a 14-6 lead with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
Five plays into the second quarter, Cove answered with a five-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14 with 7:08 left in the first half.
Cooper Babcock’s 20-yard kick return set Belton up on their next possession. Jimenez sought out Teplansky down the right side and launched a pass that he hauled in for a 43-yard touchdown. Bramlett’s point-after gave Belton a 21-14 lead with 4:55 left in the half.
After Bryan Luna dumped a running back for a five-yard loss, Ryan Harris’ sack of the Dawgs’ quarterback forced a punt.
Jimenez 20-yard read option run set up Moore’s 50-yard sprint down the field to the Cove 6. Two plays later, Jimenez smashed through the Dawgs’ front seven into the end zone for his second touchdown run of the night. Bramlett’s point-after gave the Tigers a 28-14 lead with 30 seconds to go in the first half.
The two defenses locked up in a hard-nosed battle in the second half.
A controversial illegal touching the ball penalty derailed Belton’s opening drive. On second down and 10 at Copperas Cove’s 30, Bramlett was on a pass route close to the sideline and was physically forced out of bounds by a Cove defensive back before the ball arrived. Bramlett came back in bounds and caught the ball for an apparent touchdown. The side judge only saw that Bramlett came back in after being out of bounds and did not see the force out. He penalized Belton for illegally touching the ball, nullifying the score. Cove recovered a fumble on the next play.
The Dawgs drove down the field over the next eight plays before a player fumbled on an 18-yard run right before getting to the goal line and Belton recovered, resulting in a touchback.
Belton turned the ball over on the next possession. Cove started to answer with a drive before an untimely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty threw the drive in full reverse. Luna helped the cause with an eight-yard tackle for loss and got help from Keagan Wolfe on a two-yard sack, which gave the Tigers the ball back at the Belton 27.
Jimenez found Teplansky down the right side for a 45-yard completion. Luna’s 10-yard bulldozing run set up a 30-yard field goal by Bramlett to up Belton’s lead to 17 points with 2:43 to play, 31-14.
Cove answered with a 44-yard run, but the extra-point try failed with 1:38 to play, which cut Belton’s lead to 11 with 1:38 to play.
Pulliam fielded the onside kick at midfield. Cove’s defense forced a punt and Jimenez punted the ball to the Cove 12.
The Dawgs drove down to their 44 yard and took a shot at the end zone. Pulliam pulled the ball in at the Belton 5, raced to the Belton side of the midfield stripe and slid in safely to sideline as time expired.
The Tigers got great up front blocking from their offensive line and great push from the defensive line, forcing Cove to not be able to set up an effective passing game.