COPPERAS COVE — Manny Harris had butterflies in his stomach, but it was difficult to tell.
Copperas Cove’s junior quarterback appeared composed and collected under center, engineering a pair of scoring drives during the live quarter concluding the Bulldawgs’ scrimmage against No. 20 Abilene.
Although the regular-season opener is still a week away, Harris lived out a dream Friday evening by facing an outside opponent for the first time as Copperas Cove’s starting quarterback.
“This was my first time actually taking a snap on varsity,” said Harris, who was 8 of 10 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown during the live quarter. “I was really anxious, I wasn’t nervous. (But once we began playing) I just felt calm and poised in the pocket
because the line did an excellent job tonight and blocked great.”
Harris completed passes to four different receivers, with two landing in the hands of senior Derrick Giles, including a 15-yarder that provided the final score as the Bulldawgs won the live quarter 14-0. Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch, however, is quick to point out the insignificance of the final score.
“That was just a quarter,” Welch said. “When you play Abilene (for real), they are going to make adjustments. There should be three more quarters to this, so there is no way that we ‘beat’ them.”
Nevertheless, Welch saw plenty of things he was happy with during the scrimmage, which included a controlled portion with a predetermined number of plays per team, a field-goal kicking segment and a red-zone session leading up to the live quarter.
“When you play a good football team like this, especially early in the season, they are going to show you some things that are glaring,” Welch said, “and a couple of things jumped out at me. Overall, though, I thought our defense pretty much held things intact, our offense was clicking, and I thought that was a real bright, shining point for us.”
Harris opened the live quarter by completing a pair of passes to Hunter McVeigh and Giles before senior running back Vondareaz King broke free for a 14-yard gain aided by an additional 10-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct against the Eagles after the play. Moments later, Harris connected with senior Phillip Baptiste, setting up a 10-yard touchdown run for the Bulldawgs’ new quarterback.
Copperas Cove’s defense was equally dominant.
The Bulldawgs forced Abilene to go three-and-out on each of its first two possessions, accounting for a total of 8 yards between the drives.
“Our defensive linemen were getting penetration all the way up to the quarterback, and he couldn’t really do anything,” Copperas Cove linebacker Elijah Timarky said. “Then it was up to the linebackers to scrape off and make plays.”
In between the Eagles’ two series-ending punts, Harris oversaw an eight-play, 69-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions before Giles hauled in the Bulldawgs’ second touchdown.
Copperas Cove’s final possession was unsuccessful, though, as King lost a fumble at Abilene’s 36-yard line.
“We should have had three (touchdowns),” Welch said. “We were moving, we were clicking pretty good and had them on the roll, and when you are playing a team as good as Abilene … you can’t have a turnover. You’ve got to make sure you put the nail in the coffin.”
The Bulldawgs’ defense responded to the change of possession by holding on fourth down after the Eagles worked their way to Copperas Cove’s 33-yard line.
Although the Bulldawgs do not open their regular season schedule until Friday against A&M Consolidated, like Harris, teammate Timarky was itching to face an opponent wearing a different color uniform than his own.
“I’ve had butterflies since yesterday,” he said.
“I couldn’t go to sleep at all. I was just ready, and it felt great.”