BELTON — Five days after Belton’s season-opening loss to Georgetown, first-year Tigers head coach Brett Sniffin still had plenty to say about his team’s second-half performance that ultimately cost Belton a chance to start the year in the win column.
He wasn’t thrilled that Belton yielded multiple fourth-down conversions that allowed the Eagles to continue long drives that resulted in touchdowns. He wasn’t happy with himself or his coaching staff and took responsibility for Ruben Jimenez’s 7-for-24 passing performance, claiming he and his staff gave their starting quarterback “too much to focus on.”
And Sniffin especially wasn’t enthusiastic about the multiple unsportsmanlike penalties Belton drew last Friday at Tiger Field, including a Belton ejection for throwing a punch.
Still, if the Tigers can learn from those mistakes, Sniffin said he can live with how Week 1 went.
It just better not happen again.
“The kids have worked hard to correct those mistakes this week and, to me, it’s all worth it if we learn from it and correct it. Now, if we repeat ourselves, then it’s not worth it,” Sniffin said Wednesday. “Main focus is just finishing a game. Finishing a drive, finishing the game, stopping drives on defense. If we finish plays and stop (Georgetown) on drives in the second half, then that game isn’t even close. That’s all on us.”
And despite losing a 27-7 halftime-lead by allowing 29 unanswered points — 22 in the fourth quarter — for an eventual 36-27 loss, Belton had plenty of positives in the first half.
The Tigers forced four turnovers — three fumble recoveries and an interception by junior defensive back Trent West — and outscored Georgetown 17-0 in the second quarter.
It’s hard to focus on the positives when they don’t lead to a victory, though — something Sniffin made clear to the Tigers.
“We felt good about the defense at halftime and the third quarter wasn’t terrible until we let them put together that 17-play drive in which they converted two fourth downs. In the middle of all that, that’s when we had a big personal foul that gave them a little life, too,” Sniffin said. “So the takeaways are encouraging, but at the same time, we got to learn how to finish and learn how to win.”
Belton (0-1) hits the road for the first time this season Friday with a trip to Dragon Stadium to face Round Rock, led by 11th-year head coach Jeff Cheatham, whose team was idle last week.
Round Rock finished 6-4 last season and returns its two primary weapons on offense. Seth Ford leads the Dragons as a dual-threat quarterback. Last season he threw for 2,197 yards, ran for another 499 yards and scored 25 total touchdowns for an offense that averaged 43 points per game.
Israel Morgan is the Dragons’ primary ball carrier. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior running back ran for 1,266 yards and 16 scores a year ago.
“They’ve played a lot of varsity snaps for us and they’ve really played well. We’ll rely on them as the year goes on,” Cheatham said. “Execution is key right now for us. This time of the year, we have to make sure that we’re executing in all three phases of the game and with COVID, we’re just trying to make things as simple as we can and work from that.”
On defense, Round Rock allowed 30 points per game and is propelled by a strong secondary and talented pass rushers. Senior safety Trey McCarty is a three-year starter and senior Luke Dodds and junior Travien Brown can wreck havoc at defensive end.
“They’re solid and well-coached, so they’re not going to beat themselves and we’re going to have to go out there and outplay them,” Sniffin said.
Sniffin said Friday’s game was the first time in his 29-year coaching career that he saw the negative effects of not having a spring practice session. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, spring football practices were canceled by the University Interscholastic League and left Belton without extra time to work toward this season.
“That was the first time I noticed how not having spring ball hurt,” Sniffin said. “I thought we were going to be able to overcome that, but we had some things happen that never would have happened if we would have had spring football.
“We just have to continue to work hard because it’s a mentality. If you can make good plays all the way up to that big moment, then why can’t you do it in the big moments? It’s focusing on that. We don’t want to start fast, finish weak or start weak, finish strong. We want to be consistent the whole time.”
Jimenez led Belton last week with 111 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 11 and 14 yards. He also tossed a 33-yard TD to Scott Gurnett. Senior running back Maurice Reed chipped in 60 yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, West had a team-high seven tackles to go along with the interception he returned 38 yards. Senior defensive end Malik Jackson and junior linebacker Ryan Saxton each recorded a sack, while senior defensive back Edrick Holcombe and senior linebacker Daniel Torres-Rivera both caused Georgetown fumbles.