Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch watches the plays unfold on May 19 during the Bulldawgs' annual spring game at Bulldawg Stadium in Copperas Cove.

Gabe Wolf | Herald

Jack Welch is familiar with being the center of attention, but he prefers being overlooked.

Since 1998, Copperas Cove’s longtime head coach has guided the Bulldawgs to 17 playoff appearances, including a pair of state championship games, and seven district titles.

Over the last two seasons, however, Copperas Cove struggled, producing a 7-13 record punctuated by the program’s first postseason absence in a dozen years.

As a result, external expectations for the Bulldawgs’ upcoming season have dropped with the highly respected Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine staff predicting Copperas Cove misses the playoffs again this year.

And Welch is perfectly happy with the evaluation.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “Now, the bullseye is taken off, the pressure is removed, and everybody understands that people think we’re not expected to do much. So, lets see what happens.

“It should give all of us a little extra fire in our bellies and a little extra motivation, and hearing something like that will really get you ready to go.”

Like all other Class 6A teams that participated in spring training, the Bulldawgs are one month away from beginning two-a-days with the season opener at A&M Consolidated scheduled for Sept. 1.

While Welch expects some to draw

inspiration from the publication’s projection, at least two players are finding motivation elsewhere.

“I’m not concerned with it at all,” Copperas Cove senior linebacker Kyle Stifflemire said. “They can say whatever they want, but we’re focused on doing our best to make the playoffs.”

Bulldawgs running back Shontez Simmons agrees.

“I don’t think any of that even matters to be honest,” the junior said. “It’s not about stats in a magazine, because all that really matters is what happens on the field.”

Waco Midway is predicted to repeat as District 8-6A champions with Belton, Killeen and Harker Heights following and claiming the final three playoff berths, while Ellison and Shoemaker are picked to finish behind Copperas Cove.

Although Welch agrees with the Panthers being projected as the district’s elite, he finds a large amount of parity among the remainder of the field and expects a competitive playoff race.

Most importantly, he anticipates the Bulldawgs will be right in the middle of the chase despite Texas Football’s forecast.

While Welch is accepting the negative prediction as a positive, he also understands it could be harmful if not harnessed for the betterment of the team.

“The one negative is the rule of expectations,” Welch said. “If kids believe they aren’t suppose to be any good, then sometimes they aren’t. So, that is up to myself and the other coaches to make sure the kids don’t believe that stuff.

“Usually people live up to their expectations, and I always believe in going above and beyond expectations. … It’s a lot easier to do that by being the underdog and striving for the top than being tabbed the best and having to hang on to that title.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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