COPPERAS COVE — At times, it seemed almost impossible for Daniel Ruff to not gain yards.
With the Bulldawgs’ leading rusher Vondareaz King missing a second consecutive game due to personal reasons, Ruff filled the role admirably, rushing for a game-high 270 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries as Copperas Cove snapped a two-game losing skid by beating Ellison 34-9 on Friday at Bulldawg Stadium.
After the game, Copperas Cove coach Jack Welch admitted Ruff, despite his performance, was not perfect, but any mistakes were masked by solid protection.
“Sometimes, he would hit a little bit on the outside of the hole, but the hole was so gaping big he’d fall into it, and someone was push him on forward for another three or four yards,” Welch said. “And as the game went on, he started getting that feel, and that comes with time.
“He’s playing more right now than he has throughout the season, so it is kind of early for him. He’s just got to keep on going.”
Coming into the game, Ruff had 496 rushing yards, but produced the fourth most rushing yards in a single game in school history, edging out Will Wright, who posted 267 yards against Cypress Ridge in 2008.
Ruff, like Welch, gave lots of the credit to his offensive line.
“I’m just glad that the line blocked very well for me,” the senior said. “I just went out there and did the same thing we did during practice. The line made excellent blocks so I could make plays.”
The Bulldawgs entered the game needing a victory to avoid the team’s first three-game losing streak since 2003, and, thanks in part to a 21-0 run in the second quarter, Copperas Cove (5-3, 3-2 District 8-5A) dodged the undesirable benchmark.
Ellison (0-8, 0-5) scored the first points of the game on a 33-yard field goal by sophomore Deon Burch with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter. After a minor hiccup, however, the remainder of the half was dominated by Copperas Cove.
The Bulldawgs lost possession by fumbling the ensuing kickoff, but Copperas Cove’s defense forced a three-and-out, regaining control at its own 15-yard line. After driving into the red zone, a 13-yard run from quarterback Robbie Seybold set up Ruff’s first touchdown, a two-yard run with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
Another three-and-out caused Ellison to punt again, and, this time, it took just one snap for the Bulldawgs to find the end zone as Ruff broke free for a 77-yard touchdown run.
With 4:41 remaining in the half, Copperas Cove began a drive from its own 40-yard line. Eight plays later, Rashaun Gibson scored on a 43-yard pass from Seybold and, despite a 26-carry, 129-yard first-half showing from Ellison running back Isiah Cowan, the Bulldawgs took a 21-3 advantage into halftime and never let the Eagles get closer than 12.
“Cove is a tough program, but our kids went toe to toe with them,” Ellison coach Buddy McBryde said. “We made too many mistakes to win the ballgame.”
The Eagles also had too few players produce. Cowan finished with 207 yards on 43 carries, accounting for all but 13 of the team’s yards. But his showing both on and off the field earned the respect of Welch.
“I think Cowan is a tremendous running back, and he is a very classy young man,” Welch said.
Ruff also praised Cowan after the game.
“He is just good, and he follows his blockers as well,” Ruff said. “He’s a good player, and he shows good sportsmanship.”
Cowan’s lone touchdown came in the third quarter, when he ran for all 51 yards on a five-play scoring drive capped off with a seven-yard run into the end zone, cutting the Bulldawgs’ lead to 21-9 after the extra point was missed.
But, on the next possession, Ruff broke free for a 23-yard touchdown, and, following a defensive stop, Seybold connected with Phillip Baptiste for a 27-yard score and the game’s final points.