COPPERAS COVE — Tommy Connell knows Copperas Cove is an unfinished product.

Due to the Bulldawgs’ unexpected head coaching change, the program did away with spring practices this offseason, essentially transforming the 7-on-7 schedule into the team’s first opportunity to work toward the fall season.

Things did not go well, however, during the opener of Copperas Cove’s weekly league play.

The Bulldawgs were limited to just 26 points in a trio of losses to Belton, Temple and Cameron Yoe, but following the performance, Connell admitted the team understands it is still raw.

“This is just a stepping stone into the season,” the senior cornerback said. “We’re going to talk about this and discuss what we were bad at.

“Then, we just have to practice and get better at those things.”

Copperas Cove fell into an immediate hole against the Tigers in its first contest, allowing 26 unanswered points before getting on the scoreboard. With less than two minutes remaining, Bulldawgs quarterback Chris Lingo found Seth Hussey for a touchdown before teammate Trey Berry caught the extra-point pass.

Belton responded with time dwindling, though, as Connor Carothers completed his fourth touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining, securing a 32-8 victory for the Tigers.

While Copperas Cove struggled, Belton, which has already captured a berth in the upcoming state tournament, cruised, going on to win all three of its contests.

“All the state qualifier tournaments we played in and the competition we’ve faced before this really prepared us,” Tigers quarterback Connor Carothers said. “Our routes are crisp, and our chemistry is good.”

While Belton continued to roll after facing Copperas Cove, the Bulldawgs could not find their rhythm.

Against the Wildcats, Copperas Cove tied the score 6-6 after Lingo connected with Elijah Delacruz for a touchdown with less than four minutes elapsed, but Temple recorded a dozen consecutive points to open an 18-6 advantage.

Lingo’s second touchdown pass pulled the Bulldawgs within six points, 18-12, after the point-after pass failed, and the Wildcats went on to win 31-12.

Then, in the finale against Cameron Yoe, Copperas Cove was held scoreless for virtually the entire contest, posting its lone touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the 26-6 loss.

“We need to communicate more,” Delacruz said. “We had a lot of mishaps and miscommunications.

“We just need a lot of practice, a lot more communicating and a lot more team bonding. That will just breed more trust between everybody.”

Weekly league play between the quartet continues Monday at Belton, but before then, the Bulldawgs will take part in a pair of tournaments this weekend.

Copperas Cove will split its roster Friday as the team travels for the Abilene state qualifying tournament and the opening day of Belton’s Lone Star Shootout.

Regardless of what happens, Delacruz feels 7-on-7 will be critical to the Bulldawgs’ preparation for the fall.

“This time is very important,” he said. “It’s going to bring us closer together and get us ready for the season.”

MONDAY'S COVE RESULTS

  • GAME 1:  Belton 32, Copperas Cove 8
  • GAME 2: Temple 25, Copperas Cove 18
  • GAME 3: Cameron Yoe 20, Copperas Cove 0

LINEMAN'S CHALLENGE

  • First place: Copperas Cove defensive line
  • Second place: Copperas Cove offensive line/Belton (tie)
UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS
  • Friday: Belton Lone Star Shootout
  • Monday: League tournament No. 2, at Belton

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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