HEWITT — Copperas Cove gave itself chances late. Cedar Hill gave the Bulldawgs chances too.
Despite scoring 21 consecutive points in the fourth quarter, Copperas Cove’s season came to an end Saturday afternoon as a mistake-filled first half put the Bulldawgs into a hole too deep to climb out of and the Longhorns withstood a late rally to win the Class 5A bi-district round playoff game 35-28.
After trailing 35-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Bulldawgs, with the help of a successful onside kick recovery and a defensive stop, scored on all three of its possessions in the final period, but fell just short of completing the comeback as Cedar Hill thwarted an onside kick attempt with 1:34 remaining and recovered a fumble when it could have taken a knee to run out the clock.
“We could have won it,” Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch said. “You’d think they’d know to take a knee because there were no timeouts left. I was sure glad they were running the ball, though. It gave us a chance.”
And, in the end, a chance was all the Bulldawgs wanted after a dismal first half put them in position to be blown out. The Bulldawgs’ resiliency shined through.
“This is a blessing,” Welch said. “I wish we could have won a state title and gone all the way, but if we have to lose, this is about the best way to do it. They played to the very end, gave themselves a chance to win, and they were right there.”
Defensively, Copperas Cove (7-4 overall) was pushed out of its comfort zone for the entire first half, posting just 28 rushing yards on 12 carries.
After the Longhorns marched 66 yards in 10 plays on the game’s opening possession, taking a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard pass from Damion Hobbs to Travis Wilson, the Bulldawgs lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. But Copperas Cove’s defense prevented the turnover from producing points, forcing Cedar Hill to punt after going three-and-out.
On the Longhorns’ next possession, however, Texas A&M commit Laquvionte Gonzalez scored on a 21-yard run out of a wildcat formation, giving his team a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter.
With 7:34 remaining in the first half, the Bulldawgs finally got in the end zone as quarterback Robbie Seybold scored on a 5-yard run to cut Cedar Hill’s lead in half, but the Longhorns immediately responded, producing a 37-yard kickoff return before Gonzalez ran 36 yards for a touchdown.
Cedar Hill (7-4) added to its total on a 1-yard touchdown run from Hobbs, and the Longhorns held a 28-7 advantage at halftime.
The Bulldawgs had 125 total yards in the first half, but 42 came on a completion from Seybold to Phillip Baptiste on a third-and-14 conversion with less than 90 seconds remaining.
“(I’d like to do over) the whole first half,” Welch said. “Those things happen. You’ve just got to play through it. You can’t holler and scream about it, you’ve got to try and get it stopped, try and get it corrected.”
Following halftime, the Bulldawgs still could not get going offensively, going three-and-out on its first two possessions and failing to take advantage of a short field after Cedar Hill inadvertently took a knee on a punt attempt thanks to a low snap.
And the Longhorns made them pay, scoring on a nine-play, 57-yard drive to claim a 35-7 lead with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Then, the Bulldawgs finally came to life.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, junior Vondareaz King scored on a 10-yard run and senior Zach Martin recovered an onside kick attempt to give the Bulldawgs possession at their own 43-yard line. Copperas Cove converted two fourth downs en route to King’s second touchdown of the game as he scored from two yards out with 6:38 left to pull his team within 14 points, 35-21.
Copperas Cove appeared to recover another onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but officials ruled the ball was touched before covering 10 yards, and Cedar Hill was able to run 3:42 off the clock before turning the ball over on downs with 2:56 remaining in the game.
Seybold accounted for every yard on the following possession, engineering an eight-play, 62-yard drive, ending with his seven-yard touchdown pass to Rashaun Gibson, who caught seven passes for 88 yards.
“I was just running good routes, and I got some great passes from Robbie,” Gibson said. “I was able to get down field and the offensive line had some good blocks to help out.”
The Bulldawgs were unable to deliver a successful onside kick, though, and could not recover Cedar Hill’s near-critical fumble and time ran out on their season.
“We had a great team, we played hard all season, and we worked hard,” Seybold said. “Even when obstacles came in our way, we overcame them. We played hard to the end, and I’m proud of my team.”