COPPERAS COVE — It was supposed to be Copperas Cove’s weakness.
The Bulldawgs’ offensive line was supposed to struggle after being completely dismantled and reconstructed following last season. With five fresh faces inheriting positions from grizzled veterans, whose names decorated the all-district list, the offensive line entered the season as the team’s biggest question mark.
Instead, the group became the offense’s exclamation point.
Averaging 46.7 points and 517.5 yards, the 2013 Bulldawgs eclipsed last season’s production by almost six points and more than 70 yards per game. Along the way, the offensive line began exceeding expectations.
“To have as prolific an offense as we have and to have a brand new offensive line is very impressive,” Copperas Cove coach Jack Welch said. “To see a new quarterback with the type of numbers he’s had, the biggest growth (we’ve experienced this season) is the expertise of the offense, growing and maturing like they have.”
The offensive line made an immediate impact, helping junior quarterback Manny Harris break Robert Griffin III’s school record for passing yards in a game on opening night.
In the weeks since, Harris has topped the 300-yard plateau on several occasions, finding his favorite target — Phillip Baptiste — more than 100 times as he became the first player in program history to break the 1,000-yard barrier.
While the playmakers receive the glory, the offensive linemen go virtually unnoticed as they quietly labor in the trenches. Copperas Cove sophomore JP Urquidez does not need recognition, though.
“When you find out Manny is breaking records, you know in your heart that it was you, it was your team blocking for him,” the right tackle said. “When he’s the No. 1 passer in the state, you’re proud to say you’re probably one of the best lines in the state.”
Urquidez and his fellow linemen will encounter their most daunting challenge tonight as they open postseason play against No. 2 DeSoto at Waco ISD Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Sporting a defense allowing 19.4 points per game after limiting opponents to 262.9 yards per game, the Eagles (10-0) posted a shutout and held two teams to seven points this season. Conversely, the Bulldawgs (6-4) scored at least 38 points in every game, including a school record-tying performance in a 70-24 victory at Waco.
But everything has not come easy for the Bulldawgs’ offensive line.
“It’s been interesting,” left tackle Remington Weis said of the jelling process. “We’ve had our shortcomings, but we’ve overcome them, we’ve got better, and we’re a better team for it.”
After overcoming so much adversity as a unit, Weis is embracing the opportunity to continue proving doubters wrong.
“This is exciting for us,” the junior said. “Everybody has been saying it, but to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Rankings don’t matter, it is all about matchups.”
Joining Weis and Urquidez on the offensive line are left guard Jireh Craig, center Andrew Sommervold and right guard Gabe Perez with Kyle Webster, Damion Zeig, Malcolm Zeigler, Jamal Baskerville and Allen Dees substituting.
Despite having a season of experience to fall back on, the Bulldawgs’ offensive line will be entering unknown territory tonight, playing in its first postseason game.
Urquidez knows emotions will be high, but he also believes his unit and his team will be successful if the conglomeration of feelings is embraced.
“It is a mixture of everything right now,” he said. “You’ve got to be nervous, and then put that into your game. You’ve got to be anxious, and you’ve got to be excited. There can’t be any doubt in your mind that you’re going to go out there and play your best game.”