There was a lesson learned on Tuesday night at North Belton Middle School Field: expect the unexpected.
The North Belton Middle School 8A Tigers trailed by 24 twice in fourth quarter and scored three touchdowns in the final 1:50. But an onside kick came up short, in which Lamar Middle School 8A handed NBMS 8A their first setback of the season, 38-30.
The win resulted in a three-way Central Texas Middle School Football League 8A district championship between the Tigers, the Bearkats and Midway.
The winds were howling throughout the contest and played a part in the passing game. North got the ball first and Tigers drove from their own 25 to the Lamar 44. Kade Norwood’s pass was carried by the wind and intercepted at the Lamar 34.
The Tigers defense came up big four play into Lamar’s opening drive. Following hard tackles by Yomi Babalola and Nick Bennett, Jayden Caldwell hopped on a fumble to give the North offense the ball at the Lamar 45.
Norwood’s 23-yard pass to Garrison Lane set up his 17-yard touchdown strike to Yomi Babalola. A bad snap on the two-point try kept the Tigers with a 6-0 lead with 4:04 to play in the first quarter.
Lamar’s ensuing drive was a long, time-consuming one. After 15 plays, 70 yards and 5:21 off of clock, the Bearkats scored from five yards out and booted the two-point conversion to take an 8-6 with 6:43 left in the first half.
The wind played a factor in the punting game for Belton on their first punt of the night, as a 6-yard hanger gave Lamar the ball at their own 40. Eight plays later, they extended their lead with a seven-yard run and two-point kick. Lamar led 16-6 with 1:32 to play in the half.
The score remained a 10-point lead until the 5:13 mark of the third quarter, when Lamar scored on a one-yard plunge and two-point kick to extend the score to 24-6.
The Tigers offense struggled with consistency on their next drive, as the started on their own 16, advanced the ball to their own 32 and were forced to punt at their own 19. The wind gust blew back a high punt behind the line of scrimmage and landed at the North 12, resulting in a punt of negative six yards.
The very short field took Lamar four plays to cover, thanks to sure-handed tackles from Yomi Babalola and Jackson Engelke. The Bearkats scored on a fourth and five play at the Belton 7. The two-point kick was short due to the gusty condition, which kept the score at 30-6 just six seconds into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded turnovers on downs and North had the ball with 2:51 to play. Norwood had four carries for 38 yards and scored on a 9-yard run. Lane’s two-point kick cut North’s deficit to 16 points with 1:50 to play, 30-14.
Lamar scooped up an onside kick and two plays later, scored on a 53-yard sweep around the right side. The two-point kick was good to give Lamar a 24-point advantage once again, 38-14, with 1:31 to play.
The North Belton coaching staff reached into their bag of trickeration and pulled out a wild card. Norwood took the snap in the shotgun formation and hit John Morris on the right side, parallel to the line of scrimmage. Morris found Lane wide open up the field, heaved the ball, Lane caught it and sprinted 66 yards for a North touchdown. Lane booted the two-point kick and North was back to within 16 points of the Bearkats with 1:17 to play, 38-22.
Lane’s onside kick dribbled perfectly towards the Lamar kickoff formation. It touched a Bearkat and Myles Byars hopped on the football at the Lamar 49.
The Tigers worked the ball down the field again, with Norwood hitting Lane for nine yards, Yomi Babalola for gains of 20 and seven yards consecutively. Norwood led Lane a little too far on an end zone route, though Lane nearly kept his feet in the end zone through the catch. Norwood went to Babalola for a 12-yard pass play and then went back to Lane for a one-yard touchdown catch with six seconds to play. Lane’s two-point kick put the Tigers to within eight points, 38-30.
The collective breath of NBMS Field was held in the final moments of the contest, as Lane approached and punched the ball forward in hopes that a team would recover the kick. A Bearkat upback read the kick, fielded it and fell down. Lamar knelt on the final play and the Tigers come-from-behind effort fell short after an amazing comeback.