• September 28, 2016

Dawgs open 8-6A vs. defending champs

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Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016 4:15 pm

Jack Welch is having a blast.

Through the first 22 years of his tenure as Copperas Cove’s head coach, Welch has experienced it all. He’s suffered through lengthy losing streaks and played in state championship games.

Welch has been on both sides of blowouts, felt the pain of last-second losses and celebrated milestone victories. He’s coached numerous athletes who would go on to play in the NFL and oversaw the high school careers of both his sons.

Despite it all, however, Welch is quick to point out this season might be one of his most memorable yet.

“This has been a fun year,” Welch said. “This group of kids might not win every game, but they are really fun to coach. It’s not the most talented team I’ve ever had, but it is a team that is really trying hard to be good.

“We want to get to the playoffs, but no matter what happens, it is fun to go to work every day because I see them giving their best, and if we lose while giving our all, then so be it.”

Welch and the Bulldawgs take their first step toward a 13th consecutive postseason appearance tonight as they travel to face Waco Midway for their District 8-6A opener.

Although the Panthers sport a .500 record through the first four weeks of the season, Welch is not overlooking the perennial power responsible for handing Copperas Cove district defeats in each of the previous four years.

“Their quarterback (Tanner Mordecai) was hurt at the beginning of the season,” Welch said, “but he is back now, and they are a very powerful football team. One or two kids can make a big difference, and that’s been the tale with Midway this year.

“If they were healthy all year, they could have easily been undefeated or close to it.”

After losing to Class 5A No. 1 Cedar Park and Class 6A No. 12 Round Rock Cedar Ridge by a combined 79 points to start the season, Midway bounced back with victories against Temple and Waco behind an offense averaging 338 yards per game.

To contend, however, the Bulldawgs must bounce back from their first loss of the season after traveling to Garland Sachse, where the Mustangs earned a 48-16 win.

Less than six minutes into the contest, Copperas Cove (2-1) trailed 21-0 and never recovered despite quarterbacks Caine Garner and Jaylen Smith combining to complete 17 passes to seven receivers, including Josh Canete, Floyd Connell and Kendall Small, who finished with four catches apiece.

“The bottom line is we got beat,” Welch said. “Physically, they beat us, and they beat us in the trenches.

“We knew going in we had to pressure their top receiver and their quarterback, and they just performed like men amongst boys. … For us to win, those were the things we had to do, and we didn’t.”

Welch expects a similar level of play from Midway tonight, making defense key to the outcome.

Through three games, junior linebacker Zach Moody leads the Bulldawgs defensively with 16.5 total tackles, while teammates Blair Fraser (15.5), Armand Adams (14) and Tyson Curry (13.5) follow closely behind.

“We can’t let their receivers get behind us,” Welch said. “We have to play a good coverage, and we have to stop their run.

“They’re a good passing team, but they’re also going to look to run on us, and we have to make them just do one or the other.”

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