COPPERAS COVE — With a new season comes a clean slate and the Bulldawgs are taking advantage of spring practice in order to continue to redefine Copperas Cove football.
“Last year we had all seniors on the offensive line,” said junior center Aaron Shanahan. “This year we’re starting fresh with only two returners to the offensive line, so everybody’s brand new, a whole fresh start.
“Now we just have to get back to working together as one.”
The road to next season began two weeks ago for Cove.
With possible rain in the forecast, the Dawgs started at 7 a.m. in the field house Tuesday morning.
Copperas Cove’s weight room has a new look and a new layout that allows the Dawgs to run their weight training program but move on to running drills on artificial turf when the weather forces them to stay indoors for practice.
“We treat our spring football just like we treat our season,” said head coach Jack Alvarez. “In-season, we’ll lift twice a week, so we went from a true offseason to treating spring like we’re in season.
“It’s been good, I’m proud of how far we’ve come and the work the kids have put in so far.”
It’s the first spring at Cove for Alvarez, who is just days shy of marking one year since being hired as the new athletic director and head football coach at Copperas Cove. Spring football had already been cancelled when he arrived.
Despite that, Copperas Cove went 7-4 in his debut season and clinched the fourth District 12-6A playoff spot with a record of 5-3.
Happy with the journey of his first year, Alvarez sees nothing but growth ahead for Copperas Cove.
“I think the main thing we’ve seen is kind of the culture here changing to more of what my vision is,” he explained. “Physical and mentally.
“You come to work today and it’s not just one or two guys working. ... It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been great to see the maturity and growth, not just how we work but how we’re getting things done, and it’s just been a blast.”
In June, the Dawgs will graduate 38 seniors from Alvarez’s debut season, but the underclassmen are ready to forge ahead and continue what they started.
“We’re just focused on getting better, of course,” said junior quarterback Russell Cochran. “And taking the small things and making them matter.”
And while the offense is focused on outplaying opponents’ defenses and the defense is working to stop the various offenses they’ll face, the Dawgs are focused on working as a unit.
“Really, we’re just focused on building the team and getting back at it,” Cochran noted.
Losing core players and leaders is a hurdle every high school team endures, Alvarez is confident in those returning varsity members to step up and lead the way.
Shanahan and Mckenzie Agnello are returning starters on the offensive line, with Cochran aiming to step up under center.
Middle linebacker Nate David and Jerome Gaillard are expected to lead the way on defense.
“Those are the guys that are returners and steady hands,” Alvarez said. “They should be really good leaders for us.”
With a majority of new faces lining up on the offense, Shanahan is using the spring to help mentally prepare the next generation of Dawgs on what it means to play Friday nights at Bulldawg Stadium.
“They’re going to have to understand that when it comes Friday night, they’re just going to get hit in the mouth real hard,” Shanahan said. “... And it’s going to be a wake-up call.
“But I think we’ll be ready for that wake-up call.”
As Copperas Cove moves closer to the Blue and Gold spring game on May 17, the Dawgs aim to be in district-ready shape.
“Our opponents will know us a little better, but we’ll know them a little better, too, and I think that will help us,” Alvarez said. “Hopefully we’ll get as many guys into place as we can, and as they come back, hopefully, we’ll have some excitement to the year.
“The harder you work and the more you put into it, the harder it is to surrender. Once they figure that out and they put in all the work together, they’ll play better together.”
With the team’s eyes set on the District 12-6A title, the Dawgs are embracing the grind, one step at a time.
“Just win it all,” Cochran said of the Cove’s ultimate goal next year. “Focus on one game at a time.
“Right now we’re focused on the summer — getting bigger, better, stronger and looking forward to going into next season.”