Tony Adams, Belton Journal

The Belton Tigers hosted the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs at Tiger Field on Friday night to start the District 12-6A docket. The Tigers scored 20 points in the first quarter and held off a late Copperas Cove rush to claim a 35-28 win.

Belton starts District 12-6A play 1-0 and is 2-1 on the season. The Dawgs sustained their first loss of the 2018 campaign, as they fell to 0-1 in district and 2-1 overall.

The Tigers took the ball first and pounded out five first downs on the opening drive. Connor Carothers found Denver Holman for a 19-yard completion and later found Jose Perez on a 27-yard completion to set Belton up in the red zone. Carothers completed the drive with a 13-yard back-shoulder pass to Anthony Brown for the opening score. Logan Smith booted the extra-point to give Belton a 7-0 lead with 9:17 to play in the first quarter.

Belton's defense played without Devin Martinez on Friday night due to an injury, and the unit provided big plays throughout the game. Cove drove down to the Belton 35 and was faced with a third down and one situation. In a steady rain, Cove starting quarterback Easton Simpson attempted an option pitch to Shontez Simmons and ended up in the hands of Patrick Frazho, as he returned the ball 41 yards to the Copperas Cove 24-yard line.

Carothers took advantage of the turnover immediately, as he hit a sprinting Perez for the 24-yard touchdown strike. Smith's extra-point gave Belton a 14-0 lead with 4:53 to go in the opening quarter.
The Tigers' defense stopped the Cove offense on a three-and-out, as Belton took over at their own 36-yard line.

Belton put together a seven-play, 64-yard drive in the rain, keeping the ball on the ground aside from a 19-yard pass from Carothers to Brown. Marques Aguilar capped the drive with an eight-yard rushing score. Smith's kick leaked wide left, which kept the score 20-0 with 1:33 to play in the first quarter.
Cove responded with a six-play, 65-yard drive that bridged into the second quarter. Micah Cox's four-yard run and Cameron Ryan's extra-point made the score 20-7 with 10:59 to play in the first half.
The teams exchanged fumbles over the next two drives, with Jarrett Karnowski recovering one for Belton with 7:07 left in the first half.

The Tigers were faced with a fourth down and three yards to go situation at the Cove 26, but an incompletion resulted in a turnover on downs. An interception with 35.5 seconds to go in the first half ended another potential scoring drive.
Belton's put up another successful defensive stand to end the first half, as Simpson was rushed into an incompletion on fourth down and one on the Belton 48.

Copperas Cove started the second half with the ball and put together a solid scoring drive, with Simmons hauling the load. Aided by a Belton personal foul penalty, Simmons picked up 44 of the drive's 75 yards on the ground. Simpson's two-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone put the Dawgs on the board. Ryan's extra-point kick drew the margin back to six points, 20-14, with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter.

Holman's 29-yard kickoff return to the Belton 39 gave the Tigers good starting field position, but they could not do much with the ball. Smith's 49-yard punt was downed at the Cove 15.
A false start penalty and Octavius Davis' sack of Simpson left Cove with a fourth down and 20 at the Dawgs' five-yard line. Ryan's punt was blocked and Jason Stephens picked up the ball for a special teams score. Carothers hit Perez in the end zone for a two-point conversion to give the Tigers a 28-14 lead with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter.

Davis and Sam Ramirez dumped Simpson for a five-yard loss to start the next drive. Devyn Raper broke up a third down and 13 play to force Cove to punt again.

Belton took over at their own 22-yard line and started their next drive. A back shoulder fade pass from Carothers to Brown a gain of 37 yards on third down and 12 yards to go put the Tigers over into Cove territory. Dean Blondmonville broke away for a 43-yard touchdown run to get the Tigers on the board again. Smith's extra-point gave the Tigers a 21-point lead with 2:32 to go in the third quarter, 35-14.
Copperas Cove was aided on their next scoring drive by a roughing the passer call on a 26-yard completion to Cox. After Cox's 28-yard run, he scored from six yards out. Ryan's extra-point made the score 35-21 with 5:40 to play in the ballgame.

Perez recovered the onside kick attempt at the Belton 49 and the Tigers were poised to run out the clock. On second down and six at the Cove 31, a pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Dawgs gave the Tigers first down and goal to go at the Cove 8. Two Aguilar runs got the offense down to the Cove 1, but a bad snap was fallen on by Carothers at the Cove 6. The Tigers lined up for a 23-yard field goal by Smith. The kick was blocked and run back by Tommy Connell 87 yards for a Cove touchdown. Ryan's extra-point with 42.6 seconds to Cove gave cope slim hope, 35-28.

The onside kick attempt was touched a yard too soon by the Dawgs' special team and Belton took over the ball at the Cove 49. The Tigers bled the clock, despite some shenanigans in the final moments.
Belton will travel to Killeen's Leo Buckley Stadium to take on the Harker Heights Knights next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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