COPPERAS COVE – Spencer Malchow desperately wants to climb to the top of Jack Welch’s list of potential leaders.
Copperas Cove concluded its spring training Wednesday evening by participating in its annual Blue-Gold Game, playing one full half under game-like conditions at Bulldawg Stadium.
While Welch, the Bulldawgs’ head coach, saw ample areas to improve on prior to starting the 2013 season in the fall, he strongly believes his players’ mental approach is not one of them.
“The one thing I (really) like about this group is it has some really powerful leaders,” Welch said. “I see some guys in this group that are so focused. They don’t play around, and it has already radiated through this ballclub.”
Perhaps nobody is more prepared to claim control of his respective unit than Malchow. The defensive back was all over the field Thursday, making tackles and breaking up passes during the intrasquad scrimmage, and he has no intentions of losing that intensity during the summer vacation.
“I wanted to show people who I can become the fall,” Malchow said. “I wanted to make plays and begin to become the senior leader I know I can be.”
Led by Malchow, the Bulldawgs’ defense kept the offense in check for a majority of the first quarter, ending the first two series in four snaps each before Jayson Stanley delivered a 42-yard field goal for the scrimmage’s first points after narrowly missing a 56-yard attempt on the opening series.
“Stanley looks as good as any kicker we’ve had,” Welch said, “and I’ve had three or four Division I kickers. This kid has real potential if he keeps focused.”
The offense responded by scoring on two consecutive possessions as quarterback Michael Hays, who alternated drives with Davonn Hopkins-Phelps, found Lederian Johnson for a four-yard score.
Vondareaz King then ran for an eight-yard touchdown set up by Phillip Baptiste’s 71-yard kickoff return. Baptiste later hauled in a 71-yard touchdown reception from Hopkins-Phelps.
Combined, the quarterbacks completed 15 of 38 passes for 162 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while rising junior Manny Harris, who has impressed Welch throughout spring training, was “not physically ready to go.”
Two possessions after King scored, defensive back Breyon Jackson intercepted Hopkins-Phelps to set up a two-play drive punctuated by Trent Canion’s 3-yard run. Canion finished with 124 yards, including runs of 55 and 36 yards, and two touchdowns, while backfield teammate King added a couple of impressive runs en route to 84 yards on a dozen carries.
“I think we looked pretty good,” King said. “We still need to grow up a little bit and get a little more done, but for the most part, we did pretty good.”
After the offense scored five times during a 10-possession stretch, the defense clamped down once again, allowing the offense to score only once during the final 10 minutes, 24 seconds.
During the span, defensive back Bashshar Saunders intercepted a pass for a touchdown and defensive lineman Isaiah Jackson produced a safety for the final points of the scrimmage.
“They were hustling. The effort is there, the aggressiveness is there and the technique is getting better,” Welch said. “It’s not perfect, but we are about where I would expect it to be right now, maybe even a step ahead.
“But our vision is to be at the top, and we are not there yet, but the good thing is we understand that, and we know what to work on.”
Malchow believes the Bulldawgs could be a serious contender for the District 8-5A crown if they continue to progress over the summer.
“Our defense is going to become top rated,” he said. “(Offensively,) I don’t think any other defense is gong to be able to stop them. … They are going to (score) a lot of touchdowns for us.”