Not so fast, Sam Jones.
In the immediate aftermath of Killeen’s shocking, streak-ending 47-38 victory against Copperas Cove at Hood Stadium several weeks ago, the Kangaroos head coach admitted he thought his team was the best three-loss program in the state. He told his players the same thing prior to the win – their lone win of the season to this point.
Following last Friday’s game between Copperas Cove and Midway, I believe it is safe to say the designation has changed hands.
The Bulldawgs’ record fell to 3-3 at Panther Stadium, losing 42-39 on a missed field goal in overtime, spoiling a valiant comeback attempt that came up just short. Trailing 32-10 at halftime, Copperas Cove’s defense shutout Midway’s offense for the final 20 minutes of regulation, while its explosive offense scored 21 unanswered points, including the game-tying touchdown with 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Jayson Stanley’s 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, however, and the Bulldawgs returned home with a rare third regular season loss. Copperas Cove went 7-3 last season before losing to Cedar Hill in the opening round of the playoffs, but prior to last year, a three-loss regular season has not happened under head coach Jack Welch’s watch since 2003.
Don’t be confused, though. The Bulldawgs are not having a bad season.
Sure, some would follow the rational of Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells, who famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” Going by that, Copperas Cove is a mediocre football team and a subpar District 8-5A team, sitting in a three-way tie for fifth place in the standings with a 1-2 record.
With all due respect to The Big Tuna, however, I disagree in this instance.
Not only are the Bulldawgs a good team, they should be one of the most feared teams in the state, and lets face it, they are a missed field goal, a missed tackle and a bad decision away from being undefeated.
In addition to the overtime loss to Midway, Copperas Cove suffered a stunning defeat to A&M Consolidated on opening night when a game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown as time expired garnered national attention. Then, the Kangaroos snapped a 17-year, 11-game losing streak to the Bulldawgs.
With Copperas Cove driving toward a potential game-tying or game-winning score, Bulldawgs junior quarterback Manny Harris threw one of only four interceptions this season, and Matt Ballard returned it 55 yards interception to the end zone with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.
Granted, in each game, the Bulldawgs did things that put them in bad positions to begin with, but their mental resiliency is a tremendous attribute.
Nobody batted an eye after the Tigers’ lateral-filled, last-second touchdown went viral, receiving national attention on SportsCenter and other media outlets. Copperas Cove responded by dismantling Waco 70-24 on the road, matching the most points scored by any Bulldawgs team since 1994.
After losing to a KISD team for the first time since 1998, Copperas Cove used a second-half outburst to break open a game tied at 21-21, going on to defeat Shoemaker 63-41.
Now, against Belton – a team that upset Copperas Cove 35-31 last season – we will see how the Bulldawgs respond to their latest and perhaps most disappointing loss.
Should the Tigers hand Copperas Cove a fourth loss, it would be the first four-loss regular season for the program since 2003 and only the sixth time the Bulldawgs lost four games in an entire season under Welch.
Regardless of what the scoreboard or standings indicate, with a record-breaking offense spearheaded by Harris, who is on pace to become the most prolific quarterback in school history, Copperas Cove cannot be counted out of any game or any situation.
Without a lot of help, the Bulldawgs’ district championship hopes were most likely ruined with the loss to the Panthers, but a 10th consecutive trip to the playoffs is still within reach. If a postseason berth is earned, anything could happen for this young team that has been forged in flames this year.
The Bulldawgs are mature beyond their years, they still have plenty of room to grow despite evolving ahead of schedule, and few rival their collective raw talent.
Jones and Parcells might disagree, but the Bulldawgs very easily could be the best three-loss team in the state and a legitimate threat to make a deep postseason run.