COPPERAS COVE – Manny Harris had one of the best debuts in school history, and he left the field disappointed.
In his first varsity outing, Copperas Cove’s junior quarterback demolished several program records, but after engineering a go-ahead scoring drive with one second left on the clock, the good times ended.
A&M Consolidated pitched, reversed and lateraled the ball 50 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired, stunning Copperas Cove with a 44-41 victory at Bulldawg Stadium. Tigers junior Derrick Dick’s dazzling run into the end zone capped off a three minute, 39 second stretch that saw both teams combine to score 44 points.
“That was the wildest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Harris said. “We just can’t make mistakes like that. I just couldn’t believe he was about to score. It was crazy.”
So were Harris’ stats.
He completed 34 of 51 passes for 516 yards and four touchdowns, breaking the school records for attempts in a game set by Dustin Dewald (40) in 1986 and passing yards in a game set by Robert Griffin III (293) in 2006.
“I think he grew up a lot tonight,” Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch said. “He was very poised and very confident.”
His composure was most evident late in the game.
The Bulldawgs, who led for less than a minute all evening before junior Jayson Stanley’s 25-yard field goal cleared the uprights with one second remaining, trailed 24-14 early in the third quarter, but managed to chip away at the deficit despite making numerous mistakes.
With 3:39 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldawgs (0-1) experienced their first tie as Harris connected with Hunter McVeigh for a five-yard touchdown to tie the game 24-24. Moments later, the Tigers answered with a four-play, 75 yard scoring drive, capped off by Brandon Jackson’s 25-yard touchdown.
Then the game turned into a shootout for the final 2:16.
Senior receiver Derrick Giles scored on a 63-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 31-31 after Stanley’s kick bounced off the upright and through. Giles finished with six catches for 131 yards, which was second only to Baptiste’s game-high 256 yards on 13 catches.
“It was just the offensive line giving our great quarterback time to throw the ball,” Giles said. “I just did what I had to do to catch the ball, but it is all on Manny. He’s a perfect quarterback and he put it right on the spot.”
Then Copperas Cove claimed its first lead of the night when McVeigh caught his second touchdown with 1:17 remaining to put the Bulldawgs ahead 38-31.
A&M Consolidated (1-0) would not go away though, scoring with 38 seconds left to set up the Bulldawgs’ final drive that concluded one second too soon.
“We grew up a lot in this ballgame,” Welch said. “This was good for us. We want to win, but we are the same team. The thing is we came back.”
The Bulldawgs got off to a horrific start, turning the ball over twice in their first three possessions while the Tigers responded with three consecutive scoring drives in the first quarter.
Following a 60-yard kickoff return, A&M Consolidated marched 38 yards in seven plays and claimed an early advantage as Jackson scored from two yards out. Less than 30 seconds later, the Tigers were back in control after Vondareaz King, who finished with 162 yards on 21 carries, lost a fumble on the Bulldawgs’ second play from scrimmage.
It did not take long for the Tigers to turn the miscue into points as Daniel Zivney nailed a 42-yard field goal to give his team a 10-0 with 5:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
On its second drive, Copperas Cove failed to convert a third down near midfield and the ensuing punt led to another Tigers’ touchdown 12 plays later when Kobe Miller found Kerry Thomas for a nine-yard score before the end of the quarter.
“We are a new ball club and at the first of the game, we weren’t ready for that speed,” Welch said. “We weren’t playing bad, but the thing about it is that they jumped out on us.”