COPPERAS COVE — The victory was important, but the byproduct is crucial.
When Copperas Cove opened its season Friday, the Bulldawgs did all the necessary things. They ran the ball effectively, passed efficiently and defensively dominated until pulling their starters out, and it resulted in a 34-27 win against Mexico's Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon.
It also strengthened a bond.
For 24 years, Copperas Cove was a model of consistency with Jack Welch serving as head coach from 1994 until suddenly retiring in April, resulting in a complete coaching staff makeover.
So, when the Bulldawgs kicked off the new era, they were playing to capture a win and create cohesion.
“This win is all about a matter of trust,” Copperas Cove senior quarterback Easton Simpson said. “We’ve got a lot of brand-new coaches, and this win makes us gain trust in the coaches and the coaches can gain some trust in us.
“The more trust we have for each other, the more unstoppable we can be this season.”
“Trust is the bond for this team,” he said, “and it is hard to produce that if you don’t win the first or the second game.
“This win is something that they can hang onto.”
Like every other team in District 12-6A, the Bulldawgs are attempting to accelerate through any potential learning curves with only two games separating them from beginning district competition at Belton on Sept. 14.
Copperas Cove appeared to already be prepared for the challenge against the Tigres, though.
The Bulldawgs scored on each of their first three possessions, with senior running back Shontez Simmons crossing the goal line twice en route to a game-high 132 yards.
“This was the perfect way to start off this new era,” Simmons said. “Our coach is doing all the right things, he knows what we need to do, and I’m just proud to be part of it.”
Simmons was not the only player to have a strong debut.
Simpson completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 218 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to Quinton Lewis, who finished with six receptions for 105 yards. Junior teammate Jahmeel Rice caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulldawgs will look to repeat the feat next week against Manor. The Mustangs open their season today against Weslaco East at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium.
Manor is coming off a 5-6 campaign in 2017, falling to Round Rock Stony Point in the first round of the playoffs.
Like in its opener, Copperas Cove wants to win next week, but the Bulldawgs understand more is at stake.
“We need to perfect our technique and improve our conditioning,” Simmons said. “If we are prepared, we can handle anyone.”
Alvarez echoed the sentiments.
“These first two games are just practice,” he said, “so if we need to make any big, strategic moves with personnel, then this is the time to do it, because after that, it’s Belton.
“We might not look as sharp in certain areas if we move things around, but in the long haul, we know it will pay off, and I’m a long-haul kind of guy.”