Copperas Cove’s situation was bleak, but the Bulldawgs refused to accept defeat. Their coaches would not allow it.
In a battle of District 8-5A behemoths, Copperas Cove traveled to face Midway at Panther Stadium last Friday. While most expected a shootout between the district’s top two scoring offenses, it turned out to be a one-sided battle early.
Midway’s offense pummeled the Bulldawgs for the first 24 minutes, posting more than 350 yards of offense to take a 32-10 lead into halftime.
Despite finding itself in a desperate situation, facing its most daunting deficit of the season, Copperas Cove mounted an improbable comeback, and Bulldawgs head coach Jack Welch believes, in part, his coaching staff is to thank.
“The coaches never give up,” he said. “The coaches are always looking for new schemes, how to make adjustments, and the kids are going to react, basically, how the coaches react most of the time.
“These kids have got great character, and they stay with it. They were able to adjust to the changes the coaches were making, they believe, and when you have belief in each other, usually good things will happen for you.”
In the second half, almost everything went Copperas Cove’s way.
After the Panthers scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Ben Hicks to Devontre Stricklin early in the third quarter, the Bulldawgs took complete control of the game. Trailing 39-18, Copperas Cove scored 21 unanswered points to force overtime, but junior Jayson Stanley’s 42-yard field goal carried right, and the defending district champions held on for a 42-39 victory.
While the outcome was not what Welch wanted, he saw plenty of things to liked in the loss, especially the continuing emergence of his team’s collective will.
“I think the other night can be a real measuring stick of what this team is all about,” he said. “We got down, we came back, we fought back and had a chance to win it against the number one team in the district. We showed that not only were we (capable of playing) with them, we dominated the second half.
“Our team right now is in a state that they feel good about themselves. We’re battling very hard, we’re trying to get better every ball game and it’s just one ball game at a time from here on out.”
Sitting at 1-2 in the district for the first time this century, every game takes on added importance from here on out for Copperas Cove, and no game looms larger than the next one. The Bulldawgs host Belton tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Temple manhandled the Tigers 54-20 last week behind a trio of 100-yard rushers. Making matters worse for Belton, the Wildcats’ typically porous defense was impenetrable at times, limiting Belton well below its rushing average with only 164 yards, while holding an opponent below 38 points for just the second time this season.
Although Welch fully expects the Tigers’ offense to bounce back, he is most concerned about their special teams.
“(Belton’s) kicking game has a lot of trickery,” he said. “They’re going to kick onside kicks, so we’ve got to be prepared for all they do there. They’ll run some fake punts, so we’ve got to be extremely well prepared, and we’ve got to go out and play with all our heart, and if we do that, we can be successful. But, with Belton, you can get up one or two touchdowns and all of a sudden it can turn completely around.”
That is exactly what happened a year ago.
After taking a 21-7 lead into halftime, the Bulldawgs found themselves trailing 28-24 entering the fourth quarter and were unable to escape Tiger Stadium with a victory, falling 35-31 to give Belton its first win against Copperas Cove since 2003.
While Welch would prefer to enter tonight’s game undefeated, he feels his team is in a good position to finish the season strong.
“(Against Midway) and the other two ballgames we were defeated in, in years past, we have won those games or the majority of those games,” he said. “But at least we have battled and come right back to have the opportunity to win. The game will fall your way if you just keep playing.”