By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
It might be easy for anyone to look at tonight's meeting between Copperas Cove and Shoemaker and see the obvious.
The Bulldawgs, coming off a big 23-21 win over A&M Consolidated last week, are now in the driver's seat in District 12-5A. Winning the first-place showdown means Cove (7-1, 5-0) is in position to claim its first out-right district championship since 2005.
Shoemaker remains winless on the season, stretching the state's longest losing streak to 30 games with a 21-18 loss to Temple last week to fall to 0-8 on the year.
Despite what looks like an obvious one-sided matchup, that's not what's coming out of the Cove locker room. The Dawgs aren't looking past Shoemaker, Cove head coach Jack Welch said, because the coaching staff isn't.
"Kids always respond like coaches do," Welch said. "If you see a group of kids that are out of control, the coaches are out of control. If you see a bunch of kids that are focused, the coaches are focused."
Welch and his coaches see a Shoemaker team that's making strides and features a talented running back in junior Johnny Jefferson. Two weeks before playing Temple, the Grey Wolves led Belton 21-3 before self-destructing. The week before Shoemaker came up inches short of beating Bryan.
"He's the real deal," Welch said of Jefferson, who is now taking snaps and throwing passes out of the wildcat formation. "So I
expect that it's going to be tremendous. Here's another thing - we're like the Super Bowl for those guys and we know that.
"It's going to be tough."
The Dawgs did their part, keeping their district record unblemished. It was a long time coming - Cove hadn't beat A&M Consolidated since 2005 and lost last year's first-place showdown in College Station. Cove held on, not allowing the Tigers to answer a missed field goal in the final seconds.
"We played hard every play," Welch said. "I don't think there was a play anybody took off. There were some plays where we messed up, made some mistakes.
"But I thought we played hard every play of the game (Friday). If we hadn't, we would have lost this game."
A&M Consolidated, after trailing well into the third quarter, took its first lead with 4:35 left in the period. Quarterback Weston Garner capped a six-play, 80-yard drive with a sneak from a yard out.
That swung the momentum toward A&M Consolidated's favor - at least until the fourth quarter.
Cove answered with Eli Kuhns' third field goal of the day. He nailed the 24-yard with 6:59 left to play. Kuhns also made kicks from 47 and 48 yards.
"He's a weapon," Welch said. "Eli Kuhns is a weapon. He can place that football on kickoffs wherever you want it, he does a great job on his field goal and a great job with his punting. Very seldom do you find kickers like that."
Kuhns had a chance to make it 4-for-4, but had a 21-yard try hit off the left upright with 21 seconds to play. Cove had just recovered a Tiger fumble from standout running back Quinton White, who scored twice to in the second quarter to get A&M Consolidated back in the game.
Reggie Hampton recovered the loose ball and the Cove offense moved to the Tiger 4 while milking the nearly all of the final four minutes of play.
The miss gave the Tigers one final chance to move 80 yards with no timeouts. A 13-yard pass from Garner to White was quickly nullified when Tremayne Jackson sacked the Tiger quarterback. Garner was able to spike the ball with a second to play, but his final heave was intercepted to end the game.