Like most of us, I’m sure Billy White Jr. had a lot to be thankful for over the holiday.
In particular, however, he should be thankful Copperas Cove’s football season is over.
While I believe the Bulldawgs basketball coach wished nothing but the best for the football team, hoping its postseason run would not end until the state title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, he must be rightfully relieved to finally have his team completely intact.
Thanks to No. 1 DeSoto ending Copperas Cove’s season, Bulldawgs Head Football Coach Jack Welch’s loss becomes White’s gain, and the reward is significant.
Phillip Baptiste and Tyrell Thompson recently made the switch in seasons, joining the basketball team after each were integral parts in the football team reaching the playoffs for a 15th time in the last 16 years, extending its current streak to 10 consecutive appearances.
After cementing his legacy by setting new school records for receptions (113) and receiving yards (1,556), Baptiste made an immediate impact on the court, scoring a team-high 20 points as the Bulldawgs beat La Vega 92-79 on Tuesday at home.
The senior finished with seven field goals, including a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and made 5 of 6 free throw attempts, while carrying over an aggressive style from the gridiron.
Thompson did not score in the game, but should provide the Bulldawgs with another inside presence in time, helping 6-foot-8 freshman Elafayette Stone control the paint. With 50 total tackles, including eight for a loss, to his credit this year, the starting defensive tackle will not shy away from physicality – an attribute the Bulldawgs desperately need.
Combined with returning players Montre’ Williams, Marquise Moreland, Johnathan Brown, Rashard Odomes and Chance Smith, the recent additions should only serve to bolster Copperas Cove’s overall talent and further diversify the team as it looks to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive season after ending a drought stretching back to 2008 last year.
All signs point toward the Bulldawgs having a successful season.
Despite starting the season with a 3-6 record, Copperas Cove is poised to be a contender in district. Littered with versatile guards and wings, who can blow by defenders as quickly as they can elevate for a deep jumper, the Bulldawgs have numerous scoring threats on the floor at all times, forcing their opposition to remain on its heels.
Defensively, Copperas Cove is long and disruptive with instincts to instantly transition into a fastbreak offense at a moment’s notice, and if Stone and Thompson establish themselves down low, opposing offenses will be forced to rethink running into the paint.
Most importantly, the Bulldawgs have a renewed level of confidence after last season’s success. The team sincerely believes it deserves to be mentioned as one of the area’s best teams, and that conviction is invaluable.
As with any team, it takes time for everything to come together. The Bulldawgs’ process was delayed slightly, but they have three weeks to become a harmonious unit before opening District 8-5A play against Midway on Dec. 17.
Everything is in place for White to mold this season’s Bulldawgs into the force he’s been nurturing since inheriting the team in 2009. Prior to becoming head coach, White spent three seasons as an assistant under Faber.
In his final two seasons before taking over, Copperas Cove made consecutive playoff appearances as a Class 4A program, ending an eight-year postseason absence.
Now, the team is on the verge of back-to-back trips to the playoffs once again.
Obviously, emerging as one of the top four teams in an ultra competitive district will be difficult, but all the pieces are there. The Bulldawgs have passionate coaches, talented players, a deep bench, strong leadership and a unified focus.
For any Copperas Cove fan who has endured through the tough years over the past decade or so, it is a lot to be thankful for.