Whenever Belton needed a play on senior night, a senior seemed to oblige.
The result, after a sluggish first half Oct. 13 at Southwick Stadium, was a 28-13 victory against Grandview.
Leading only 8-7 at halftime, the Pirates’ seniors delivered big play after big play in the second half.
It started with Dante Madden, a senior, returning the second half’s opening kickoff 55 yards to the Grandview 25-yard line and Belton (5-4, 3-2 Suburban Blue) continued to pull away from there.
“That return at the beginning of the second half was huge,” Pirates coach Todd Vaughn said. “We needed that.”
Quarterback Bart Harris found Jaden Clark, both seniors, a few plays later for a 14-yard touchdown and a 15-7 roughly a minute into the third quarter.
“Jaden and all those guys, they came to play,” Harris said. “Dante has been really good this year. We all showed up, and got the win.”
When it looked like Grandview (4-5, 2-3 Suburban Blue) might march down and answer, Belton got big stops on third and fourth downs from T.J. Brown, who ended the threat by sacking Rephael Pearson Jr. on fourth-and-1 at the Pirates’ 38
If you guessed Brown is a senior, give yourself a (purple and) gold star.
“Especially in the second half, we needed our guys to go up and make plays, and they did,” Vaughn said. “We left some (plays) on the field in the first half, some dropped passes and interceptions, so we challenged them there at halftime. And I liked the way we responded, no doubt.”
After the defensive stop, Belton drove the length of the field and again Harris connected with Clark for another a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Harris started the game by completing 6 of his first 7 attempts before Grandview’s Javon Williams snagged a second-quarter interception.
The Pirates only managed to complete one more pass before halftime, but Harris rallied in the second half and finished 13 of 27 for 141 with three touchdowns.
Harris’ third TD put the game out of reach with 3 1/2 minutes remaining on a fade pass to junior wide receiver Ezekiel Henson, who fended off the Bulldogs’ Chris Martin for the game’s final score.
“Second half, I think he played at a pretty high level,” Vaughn said. “But guys have to make plays, too, out there. We dropped a couple of passes there, and then he threw that fade to Zeke. He knows he’s got a strong arm, put it out there, and let’s run underneath it.”
Madden fueled the ground game with 98 yards on 19 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He also caught four passes for 37 yards.
“The thing with Dante (Madden) is he runs like he weighs 200 pounds,” Vaughn said. “The kid only weighs 160 pounds. He plays so hard, so physical. A lot of times he makes stuff happen, even if it’s not blocked well up front.”
The Bulldogs pulled within 8-7 on TD toss from Pearson to Williams early in the second quarter, but the offense managed on two more first downs before halftime.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Clark nearly picked off Pearson.
Instead, Harold Trainer hauled in the pass for a 21-yard touchdown that drew Grandview within 22-13, but Clark got his interception later in the quarter. Antione Nunn Jr. also had a second-quarter interception.
Henson picked up a muffed punt that put the Pirates in the red zone, which led to the final touchdown.
Belton’s seniors, who helped place a third-place conference finish, will get at least one more home game Oct. 20 against Columbia-Hickman (1-8) during the first round of Class 5, District 6 playoffs.