COPPERAS COVE — Everything was going as Jack Alvarez planned until the second half.
Through the first two quarters of its season opener, Copperas Cove was clicking offensively, but it would not last.
A series of turnovers and thwarted drives swung momentum in the third quarter, and despite reclaiming the lead with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, it was not enough.
Burleson engineered a nine-play, 68-yard drive culminating with a game-winning, 23-yard touchdown from Blake Myers to Jaxon Winburn with 10 seconds left, allowing the Elks to escape with a 41-38 victory.
But Copperas Cove’s head coach could see the game slipping away earlier.
“Late in the second quarter,” Alvarez said, “the tide turned on us, and we started producing turnovers.
“It was just a tough night. This isn’t what I had planned, because I thought we’d all be happy after the game.”
The Bulldawgs must wait to celebrate their first victory of the season, though.
After taking a 24-14 cushion into halftime, Copperas Cove quarterback Russel Cochran threw a pair of interceptions, and Burleson capitalized on each with a pair of quick scores to claim its first lead at 27-24.
By the end of the period, the Elks’ advantage grew to 34-24.
Bulldawgs senior running back Elijah Delacruz delivered a response, however, to begin the fourth quarter, posting his second
touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Then, after exchanging punts, Copperas Cove relied on Micah Cox to carry them as the senior accounted for all 41 of his team’s yards on the drive, including a 1-yard run into the end zone, giving the Bulldawgs a 38-34 lead with 123 seconds left.
Burleson would not be denied, though, marching down the field to capture the victory.
“We gave up a late touchdown,” Copperas Cove defensive back Christian Tuiasosopo said, “and that’s a tough way to start the season, but if anything, this game is going to motivate us.
“We’re going to get this bad taste out of our mouths.”
The Bulldawgs struck first as Cochran connected with Delacruz for a 41-yard gain, setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by senior Cox to cap off the team’s second possession.
The Elks responded on the following drive to tie the score 7-7 going into the second quarter, but the lead would not hold up as Copperas Cove posted 10 unanswered points. Cochran rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, and Cameron Ryan made a 26-yard field goal to go up 17-7.
Once again, Burleson had an answer, producing a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive.
The momentum was quickly negated, however, thanks to Delacruz running 89 yards into the end zone on the ensuing kickoff, and Copperas Cove led 24-14 at halftime despite ending the quarter with the first of three interceptions on the night.
Delacruz led the Bulldawgs in defeat with 121 total yards, including 80 rushing, to go with his kickoff return for a touchdown, while Cox had a game-high 149 rushing yards on 18 carries. Additionally, Copperas Cove receiver Jaylin Smith finished with six catches for 75 yards.
While it was not how Alvarez hoped to open the season, he believes the team will improve before returning to Bulldawg Stadium next week to host Manor.
“I don’t know what our fate will be,” he said, “but the teams that I’ve coached typically get a lot better as we go.
“It’s better to find out these things about ourselves now than during the first district ballgame.”
FRIDAY'S 12-6A FOOTBALL
- A&M Consolidated 49, Ellison 6
- Austin Westlake 48, Belton 0
- Burleson 41, Copperas Cove 38
- Euless Trinity 20, Waco Midway 14
- Round Rock 42, Harker Heights 34
- RR Cedar Ridge 35, Temple 29
- Shoemaker 54, San Angelo Central 21
- Waco University 36, Waco 35