The Belton Tigers have been chomping at the bit to get back onto the gridiron after missing the past two weeks due to a COVID-19 pause.
On Friday night, the Tigers unleashed their fury on the Ellison Eagles in a critical District 12-6A matchup.
Maurice Reed had three touchdown runs, Ruben Jimenez had two touchdown runs, and touchdown passes to Keagan Wolfe and Seth Morgan to fuel the Tigers’ 56-33 win on Friday night at Tiger Field.
On the field, the Tigers won the toss and elected to defer. Ellison took the ball first and drove the ball from the Eagles’ 33 to the Belton 40. On third down and seven at the Belton 42, Joe Sniffin and Bryan Luna stopped Damashja Harris on a gain of two yards. Faleifa Mauga’s 39-yard quick kick was downed at the Belton 1.
The Tigers were unfazed, as Jimenez started the drive with a two-yard run that was aided by a collective bulldoze of the Ellison defensive line by Tigers’ offensive linemen Matthew Sierras, Thomas Bowman, Jackson Engelke, Garrett Schoolcraft and Charles Wilson.
After Reed bolted through for a 14-yard run, Belton whipped out the double-reverse pass. Jimenez pitched the ball to Reed, who then pitched the rock to Seth Morgan and then back to Jimenez. The senior quarterback spotted Itty Henry breaking free and fired a pass that he pulled in and took to the Ellison 4, which was a gain of 79 yards. Jimenez rushed the ball down to the Ellison 2 and Reed completed the drive with a two-yard plunge. The drive tied the program long of 99 yards in five plays. Zach White’s extra-point gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 6:37 to play in the first quarter.
Harris dominated the ground game for the Eagles on the ensuing drive, as he gained 65 yards on six carries. He capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run. David Avalos’ extra-point tied the score at 7-7 with 1:36 to play in the first quarter.
Reed’s 30-yard kickoff return started the Tigers off at their own 40 on the next offensive series. The drive was highlighted by Reed’s 10-yard run to end the quarter and Jimenez’s 22-yard run to give Belton first and goal to go. Jimenez completed the 60-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run. The touchdown, along with White’s point-after kick gave the Tigers the lead back with 11:16 to play in the first half.
Aaron Bain’s kick down the left side took three hops and Noah Newman scooped it up at the Ellison 37. Six plays later, the Tigers reached the scoreboard again, as Jimenez hit Keagan Wolfe in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard strike. White’s point-after put the Tigers up by 14 points with 8:32 left in the first half, 21-7.
Belton’s defense created havoc for Ellison all game long. Amiere Steward and Charles Williams III knocked around Harris during the next drive, forcing the Eagles to pass. Mauga hit Traelen Williams with a 33-yard pass to the Belton 18. Two plays later, Williams recovered Mauga’s fumble at the Belton 19.
The Tigers wasted no time getting down the field, as Kanyn Utley’s 10-yard run set up Jimenez’s 53-yard pass to Seth Morgan. Four plays later, Reed completed the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. White’s extra-point gave the Tigers a 28-7 lead with 2:28 left in the half.
Ellison’s three-and-out drive gave the Tigers the ball at the Eagles’ 48-yard line with 1:10 left in the half.
Five plays into the Tigers’ final drive of the half, Jimenez hit Morgan on a post pattern for a 30-yard touchdown pass. White’s extra-point extended the Tigers’ lead to 28 points with 20 seconds left in the second quarter, 35-7.
Harris returned the kickoff 73 yards for an Ellison touchdown. Avalos’ extra-point cut the deficit back to 21 points with five seconds left in the half.
The first half concluded with the Tigers leading, 35-14.
Belton got the ball to start the third quarter. Trent West returned the kickoff 17 yards. However, the Tigers’ drive stalled at the Belton 49. Will Hayes’ 31-yard punt started the Eagles at the own 24 to begin their second half on offense.
Mauga’s 31-yard pass to Spiller highlighted Ellison’s touchdown drive of seven plays and 75 yards. Harris’ 19-yard touchdown run and Avalos’ point-after cut the Tigers’ lead to 14 points with 5:59 left in the third quarter, 35-21.
Henry’s 15-yard return and late hit penalty on Ellison gave the Tigers prime starting field position at midfield. Jimenez connected with Wolfe on a 20-yard pass play. Reed’s 15-yard run set up Jimenez’s three-yard touchdown run around the left side. White’s extra-point gave the Tigers a 42-21 advantage with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
Ellison answered again on the next drive, as the Eagles drove 75 yards on 11 plays. Harris’ 29-yard touchdown run cut the Tigers’ advantage to 15 points. West blocked the extra point to keep the score at 42-27 with 11:08 left in the game.
The Tigers kept the offense simple, with a 10-yard pass from Jimenez to Utley, 11-yard pass from Jimenez to Henry and four Reed runs for 49 yards. Reed’s three-yard touchdown run and White’s point-after lifted the Tigers’ advantage to 22 points with 9:09 to play, 49-27.
Ellison elected to go for it on fourth down and four at their own 38. Luna, Malik Jackson and Braxton Haynes chased Mauga out of the pocket and he fired a pass toward Spiller at the Belton 45. The pass was caught out of bounds and the ball went back over to the Tigers on downs.
Belton began working on the clock, as Reed had four runs for 20 yards and Javier Luna picked up five yards on three carries. Wriley Madden relieved Jimenez at quarterback and scored on a 13-yard run around the outside with 2:51 to play. White’s extra-point lifted the Tigers’ lead to a game-high 29 points, 56-27.
On Ellison’s next offensive play, Khalid Mendez broke into the open and raced 62 yards for an Eagle score. The two-point conversion failed, as Ellison trailed the Tigers with 2:34 to play, 56-33.
Bain jumped on the onside kick at midfield, and Luna ran the next plays for a total of 15 yards. Madden knelt down on the final to secure the win.
Belton outgained Ellison on the night, 526-354.
Jimenez was 12-of-16 for 249 yards and two touchdowns to go with 14 carries, 66 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Reed had 24 carries for 172 yards and three rushing scores to go with 12 yards receiving.
Henry led the Tigers with 106 yards on five receptions. Morgan had 83 yards on two receptions and Wolfe added 38 yards.
Faleifa was 9-of-19 passing for 101 yards. Harris had 22 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Spiller led the Eagles with 64 yards receiving.
Belton improved to 3-5 on the season and 3-2 in District 12-6A play. They will host Killeen Shoemaker Friday night (Nov. 27) at Tiger Field.