Jack Welch’s historic run is over.
After defeating every Killeen Independent School District team he faced since 1995, the Copperas Cove head coach’s domination came to an end last week as Killeen used a 20-point outburst in the fourth quarter to earn a 47-38 victory at Hood Stadium.
It marked the Bulldawgs’ first loss to a KISD team in 35 games, stretching back to Ellison’s 43-17 win in 1998.
While disappointed with the defeat, Welch knew it was simply a matter of time before his streak, which included 11 consecutive wins against Killeen, ended.
“We’ve been blessed to maybe have won over a course of time,” Welch said, “but in anything you do, it all goes with the territory. It’s going to come around sooner or later, so you’ve got to keep pushing, keep playing and do your very best.”
Despite its best efforts, Copperas Cove’s defense was unable to contain Kangaroos running back Daniel McCants, who carried his team to its first victory of the season. The senior finished with 276 yards and six touchdowns on 42 carries as he kept Killeen close in the beginning before helping it pull away in the end.
Following Copperas Cove receiver Tre Powell’s 70-yard touchdown reception from Manny Harris, McCants gave the Kangaroos a 14-7 lead with scoring runs of 56 and three yards before Bulldawgs defensive back J.D. Post tied the game with a 75-yard kickoff return for the Bulldawgs.
McCants scored his third touchdown in the second quarter, but Copperas Cove responded with 16 consecutive points behind two touchdowns from fullback Shaq Fluelen, giving the Bulldawgs a 30-20 advantage in the third quarter. The deficit was quickly erased, though, as McCants added three more touchdowns to give Killeen a 41-20 lead.
Harris, who completed 22 of 45 passes for 309 yards, connected with Derrick Giles on 14-yard, fourth quarter touchdown, and the Bulldawgs pulled within a field goal following a successful two-point conversion. But the Kangaroos secured the win with Matt Ballard’s 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1 minute, 29 seconds remaining in the game.
While Copperas Cove did plenty to hurt itself during the course of the game, including turning the ball over three times, missing two field goals and finishing with eight penalties for 91 yards, Welch praised McCants for simply being unstoppable.
“His talent gives him the ability to score every time he touches the football,” Welch said. “If you’ll look at the same plays being run with other players, you’ll see the difference in yardage that was gained.
“That’s the ability, in high school, where a great athlete can make great things happen.”
Coming into the game, the Bulldawgs were allowing 119 rushing yards per game, ranking them third among District 8-5A defenses, while the offense only turned the ball over four times, but Welch believes the experience of being gouged on the ground and shooting itself in the foot taught his team a valuable lesson.
“We’re a youthful team this year,” he said. “We know that we’re very inexperienced, and the thing that we’ve got to do is focus on ourselves and play as well as we can possibly play.
“The teams in this district are very, very close in similarity with athletes and talent, and the bottom line is you’ve got to play well every night.”
The Bulldawgs (2-2, 0-1) will look to rebound tonight at home against Shoemaker, which enters the game with an identical record following last week’s 37-27 loss to Temple. With standout dual-threat quarterback Ziere Banner leading the team offensively, averaging more than 330 yards three touchdowns per game, Copperas Cove will have its hands full trying to slow the senior down.
Additionally, Grey Wolves senior Dewayne Williams leads the district in interceptions with six, while three others have picked off a pass this season, and seniors Qwoy Blunt and George Levy each average more than 25 yards per kickoff return.
Welch, however, believes his players’ main concerns must be avoiding any potential blunders, especially late, against a team he expects to deliver a difficult test.
“The mistakes are what hurt us last game outside of McCants,” Welch said. “He did a great job, but we still had a chance to win the ballgame. That’s what you want to do is give yourself a chance to win the ballgame — to always be in that position.
“We’ve been in that position (late in games) this year, and we’ve lost twice, but we’ve been in position to win both times. We’re giving ourselves that chance. We’ve (got) to eliminate mistakes and penalties.”