The playoffs are still a week away for most teams. Copperas Cove’s run, however, begins tonight.
After nine games, the Bulldawgs, who many expected would contend for the District 8-5A championship, find themselves on the outside of the postseason picture.
An unexpected loss to Killeen, along with a hard-fought defeat at Midway and last week’s home loss to Temple drops Copperas Cove into a precarious position. If the Bulldawgs want to extend their season, they must beat Harker Heights and get some help.
While multiple scenarios could potentially allow Copperas Cove to reach the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season, all require the Bulldawgs to beat the Knights. Situated in a two-way tie with Killeen for the fourth and final berth, the most clear-cut path to the postseason would be to beat Harker Heights and have the Kangaroos lose on the road to Temple.
Midway and Temple are sitting atop the District 8-5A standings having already secured playoff berths, while Shoemaker needs to beat Ellison, which is on a 29-game losing streak, in the regular season finale to clinch a spot.
Some would argue it should have never come down to this for Copperas Cove. Some are disappointed to see the playoffs are not guaranteed for the Bulldawgs by this point in the season. Some say the team underperformed.
I say, who cares?
Regardless of whatever windy road brought Copperas Cove to this point, the fact is the Bulldawgs are basically in a win-or-go-home scenario. Isn’t that exactly what every player and coach spends months daydreaming about?
It is not under ideal conditions, but in a way, this is a playoff game with a twist.
In postseason competition, the winner advances, but there is a possibility the Bulldawgs could win and not reach the playoffs. Due to their loss to Killeen, should both teams win, the Kangaroos would be postseason bound.
Everything for Copperas Cove is riding on tonight’s outcome, and most wouldn’t want it any other way.
As a football fan, and a sports junkie in general, nothing is better than seeing two teams fight for their lives. So much is invested into the few brief moments comprising a game. Days of specific preparation coupled with months of training and sacrifice are all put on the line, and everybody involved knows gut-wrenching pain awaits some.
But it is worth it just for the opportunity to prove themselves both individually and collectively.
I guarantee the Bulldawgs will celebrate a victory against Harker Heights. The good times might quickly come to a screeching halt if word arrives Killeen upset the Wildcats, but the moments of pure adulation and satisfaction following a high-stakes win cannot be rivaled.
Every player should know how it feels to have his season hanging in the balance, and, obviously, that does not necessarily have to take place in the postseason.
Ideally, Copperas Cove would be involved in a glorified bye week against Harker Heights. Had everything gone according to longtime head coach Jack Welch’s plan, the Bulldawgs’ record would be unblemished and a 15th trip to the playoffs in the last 16 seasons would be a foregone conclusion.
As the old adage goes, though, that’s why they play the games.
Clearly, things didn’t go the Bulldawgs’ way this season, but every loss handed to them was deserved.
Considering the program’s talent and pedigree, it is plausible to say it shouldn’t have come down to this for Copperas Cove. Maybe the Bulldawgs did underperform, but the time for scrutiny is over.
Copperas Cove is in an unfavorable position, but it must be embraced. This is a chance to right all its wrongs. Tonight is the Bulldawgs’ opportunity to play like there is no tomorrow, because there very well might not be one.
For many in the senior class, the Knights could serve as their final opponents ever.
The emotions will be raw tonight at Hood Stadium as players fight for something bigger than the playoffs – pride.
Again, a victory ensures absolutely nothing for Copperas Cove, especially if Killeen beats Temple. The Bulldawgs will put their hearts and bodies on the line tonight with no guarantees.
At this point, Copperas Cove can do nothing more than leave everything on the field and let the chips fall where they may.
If they are victorious, the Bulldawgs could get to do it all over again next week in a bi-district game. If they lose, a difficult life lesson will most likely be imparted.
Either way, the players will benefit from the experience, and that should be the only victory anybody should be concerned with.