COPPERAS COVE — Not even Mother Nature could delay the inevitable.
After needing nearly two hours to finish the first half, a lightning delay extended halftime by an additional 30 minutes, but once the teams were finally allowed back on the field, Copperas Cove finished what it started.
Leading 34-7 entering the third quarter, the Bulldawgs beat Belton 41-14 in wet and rainy conditions at Bulldawg Stadium.
The victory was exactly what Copperas Cove needed to keep its playoff hopes intact after an overtime loss at Midway last week dropped the Bulldawgs to 1-2 in District 8-5A play, while the Tigers lost their second consecutive game.
For a while, it seemed as if they game might never end.
With both teams passing early and often to begin the game, the clock was continually starting and stopping, but nothing much slowed down Copperas Cove (4-3, 2-2) in the first half.
After exchanging punts on the first two possessions of the game, Copperas Cove took advantage of Brandon Rhoads’ fumble in the red zone, needing just three snaps before Shaq Fluelen punched in a 2-yard touchdown.
Things got worse for the Tigers on their next possession as quarterback Joe Flynn was intercepted by Bulldawgs defensive back Breyon Jackson, setting up Fluelen’s second touchdown — a 1-yarder — to give Copperas Cove a 12-0 advantage with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Less than four minutes later, Phillip Baptiste caught a pass from Manny Harris, taking it into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown.
The Bulldawgs took a 21-0 advantage into the second quarter, where Belton recorded its first score on an 18-yard pass from Flynn to Andre Ewing. But the Tigers (2-5, 2-2) would not score again in the half as Baptiste and Harris ran in touchdowns of 5 and 9 yards, respectively, and Copperas Cove entered the third quarter leading 34-7.
Copperas Cove posted four consecutive touchdown drives after punting on its first possession. The streak ended when Harris’ pass was intercepted by Matt Chapman with 2:15 remaining in the half, but the Tigers could not capitalize on the possession, missing a 42-yard field goal, setting up Harris’ touchdown run.
Despite posting a combined 41 points, the first half was ugly with 19 penalties called for a total of 194 yards. Belton was flagged 11 times for 107 yards.
Harris, who broke the school passing record during last week’s loss at Midway, completed 8 of 20 passes for 148 yards with Baptiste hauling in four catches for 90 yards. Flynn was 13-of-18 passing for 132 yards in the first half, connecting with Ewing and John Holmes four times each.
Then the lightning and rain rolled through Copperas Cove and the game switched gears.
Both teams turned to a ground-based attack during the second half as Rhoads and Kavan Johnson, who finished with 78 and 55 yards, respectively, carried the load for Belton, while Copperas Cove was paced by Harris’ 119-yard rushing performance, including 57 after halftime.
The rain also helped slow down Harris, who finished with only 176 yards through the air after averaging 380.5 yards per game entering the evening.
Rhoads’ 10-yard touchdown from Flynn with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter cut the Tigers’ deficit to 20 points, 34-14, but Harris scored his second touchdown of the game in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to provide the final points.
of the game.