It came down to the last play. It didn’t have to, but it did.
While everyone who was in attendance and everyone who has since seen A&M Consolidated’s wild, last-second, game-winning, lateral-filled kickoff return against Copperas Cove will remember it as one of the most memorable moments in Texas high school football history, it didn’t cost the Bulldawgs the game.
Sure, had a Copperas Cove player tackled Luke Benden before he pitched the ball to teammate Brandon Jackson, the whole sequence might not have occurred. Or if Jackson was brought down before tossing the ball to Derrick Dick, who literally ran circles around a couple of Bulldawgs before running into the end zone and crushing Copperas Cove’s collective heart, history could have been altered.
Who knows? Had Bulldawgs head coach Jack Welch decided to kick the ball deep instead of squibbing it, maybe Copperas Cove holds on for a dramatic 41-38 come-from-behind victory.
But it didn’t happen that way, and, more importantly, it should have never come down to the final second. The Bulldawgs had plenty of other opportunities to secure a victory, but they simply could not do so.
There were three dropped passes by Copperas Cove receivers that could have easily been turned into touchdowns, including two on the Bulldawgs’ final drive that ended with a perceived game-winning field goal with one second left.
There was also quarterback Manny Harris’ second-quarter interception in the red zone that could have put changed things, but nobody is complaining after the junior’s performance. In his first varsity start, Harris completed 34 of 51 passes for 516 yards and four touchdowns, breaking a pair of school records, including Robert Griffin III’s benchmark of 293 passing yards in a game. Nevertheless, it wasn’t quite enough.
The Tigers never faced third down in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldawgs lost two fumbles and had countless tackle attempts thwarted long before they failed to stop the ball carrier on the game’s final play.
Things could have been dramatically different with a few alterations in time, but then fans would have been robbed of one of the most spectacular finishes in football history as the teams combined to feverishly score 44 points in the final four minutes.
Indeed, the Bulldawgs made their share of mistakes and none was more glaring than their lack of tackling as the Tigers ran their way into SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, but hopefully they learned a valuable lesson as well.
No game is ever won or lost on a single play, rather it is a combination of things that add up to the outcome.
For all the mistakes Copperas Cove made, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Bulldawgs will be contenders for a district championship, and while A&M Consolidated’s last-second play might have grabbed the nation’s attention, it got the Bulldawgs’ attention as well.
And focus might just be the only thing Copperas Cove lacks.