Jack Welch has seen a lot of schedules during his career, but he has never experienced anything like this.
Copperas Cove released its 2014 football schedule this week, and the Bulldawgs’ longtime head coach already knows his players will be tested like never before, especially early in the season.
“It is a doozy,” Welch said of his upcoming slate of opponents. “This non-district schedule is by far the toughest in my tenure here. … All four games are going to be really tough football games, but I think they’re going to help us get prepared for district.”
The Bulldawgs open the season with consecutive home games, hosting A&M Consolidated to start the season on Aug. 29 before welcoming state power Lake Travis the following week. Copperas Cove then hits the road for a game against former district foe Round Rock and concludes non-district play on Sept. 18 against Schertz Clemens.
The Bulldawgs’ first four opponents each made the playoffs in 2013, producing a combined record of 37-13 with two double-digit win totals. The Cavaliers went 12-2, losing to eventual Class 5A, Division II state champion Cedar Hill in the semifinals after ending A&M Consolidated’s 10-3 season in the quarterfinals.
Welch admits the teams were selected partly due to mere necessity, but also because of their close proximities to Copperas Cove, allowing fans to have easy access to the games.
In the end, however, he hopes the decision does not come back to haunt him.
“The only negative that hangs in a coach’s mind when you play teams like this is that you might get really banged up and go into district banged up,” Welch said.
Competing in the new seven-team District 12-6A, the Bulldawgs will not have the luxury of having a bye week prior to starting district play like they have in recent years.
“Everybody has an open week at a different time throughout the year,” Welch said. “It’s luck of the draw, and to be frank, I got the last draw. … But it could also be a benefit because having the last game off, should we make the playoffs, we’d have an opportunity to get healed up on that week.”
Copperas Cove begins district play on Sept. 26 at home against Killeen before playing at Belton. The Bulldawgs continue alternating home and away games over the following weeks, hosting Ellison and traveling to Midway before playing their home finale against Harker Heights.
The regular season will end for Copperas Cove on Halloween against Shoemaker at a site yet to be determined.
“The one thing I know about our district is there’s not a patsy,” Welch said. “Not one. Shoemaker proved that last year. They are ready to go hunting bears with a switch. … Belton has a brand new coach in Bob Shipley, and I think he’s going to be a dynamite, powerful man that will lead that program.
“There’s not one opponent that you can take a breather on,” he added. “Every one will be tough.”
Nevertheless, Welch feels his team will be up to the challenge.
“I think we’re going to have an opportunity,” he said. “We’re pleased to have our quarterback (Manny Harris) coming back. That gives us some good hope. No question, we lost some good skill people, but I think we’ve got some people on board, and offensively, I think we can be competitive. Our key is defense.”