COPPERAS COVE — Andre Ewing knows it will not last forever.
Belton’s senior receiver understands at some point the Tigers will return to being Copperas Cove’s district foe. For now, though, he is enjoying the truce.
“With us and Cove, we have that love-hate relationship,” Ewing said following an evening of 7-on-7 games between the teams at Bulldawg Stadium. “In pads, we are huge rivals, but out here at 7-on-7, we just have fun together. It is just (a good time).”
Each school fielded two teams, with the first-string teams and second-string teams each playing three games. Overall, the Bulldawgs ended up on the losing end, going 2-3-1, but their first stringers won twice.
Unlike Ewing, Copperas Cove receiver Phillip Baptiste does not care when the game is being played, he only has one objective.
“Win,” the senior said. “Win, that’s (the only thing we want to accomplish). That is what we’ve got to do. We can’t go out there and lose.”
After a slow start, the Bulldawgs’ first-string team did not taste another defeat.
Copperas Cove lost its opening contest 19-13 as Shane Stafford led Belton’s offense, connecting with Ewing on several occasions, but the Bulldawgs bounced back, winning by narrow margins in each of the subsequent games. The Bulldawgs won 20-18 in the second game and 14-12 in the third contest.
To Copperas Cove defensive back J.D. Post, the experience of playing the Tigers is far more valuable than the victories, though.
“Belton is always looking like a decent team,” the senior said. “I appreciate getting the opportunity to go against them because it allows us to compete (against them) and see what they have coming next year.”
One of the major changes the Tigers are undergoing is occurring under center, where Stafford is inheriting the quarterback position from standout Peter Shelburne.
“I’m just trying progress my passing game,” the junior said. “This is all timing. This is all finding the holes and balls being on time and in the right place.”
Stafford was on point early, leading the Tigers to a victory, but Post’s interception of Stafford helped the Bulldawgs secure a victory in the second encounter. Then it became Davonn Hopkins-Phelps turn to produce.
Copperas Cove’s junior, who was undefeated as a junior varsity quarterback last season, found Baptiste twice late in the third game, including once for a touchdown before connecting with Derris Prater for the conversion to take a 14-6 lead. Stafford responded by engineering a last-minute scoring drive, but it was not enough.
Belton already qualified for the 2013 State 7-on-7 Tournament held July 12-13 at Leander. The Bulldawgs hope to also make the trip with their next opportunity coming June 22 at Marble Falls.
If Copperas Cove is going to reach state, however, it will do so on the arm of Hopkins-Phelps, who is the Bulldawgs starting quarterback after fellow junior Manny Harris injured his right arm, forcing him to the sidelines.
“(Making it to state) is always right out in front of us,” Hopkins-Phelps said. “Before every game, we huddle up, and we talk about what we want done. (Making it to state) is what we want to do.”
Belton’s second-string team did not lose a game Tuesday, defeating Copperas Cove 32-0 in the opener before winning 25-12 in the second game. The teams finished the third contest in a 13-13 tie.
While there are lots of benefits to playing district teams in 7-on-7, Post believes the Bulldawgs must walk a fine line in order to prevent revealing too much to the opponents.
“As a team, we don’t want to show exactly what we are doing for the season,” Post said, “but we are going to give them a little bit, so we know that we’ll have the edge on the other teams.”