COPPERAS COVE – Jack Welch knows his defense must be prepared.
After giving up a an average of 33.1 points and 411.6 yards per game during 2013, Copperas Cove’s head coach understands a similar performance in the upcoming season could be devastating to the program’s chances for an 11th consecutive playoff appearance.
So, during spring training, Welch needed to see his defense grow, and following Thursday’s annual Blue-Gold Game, he was pleased with the unit’s progress.
“I think our defense improved,” he said. “I think it greatly improved, but we’ll see when we come up against Abilene and A&M Consolidated. We have a tough, tough schedule, but that is a good thing, and we are excited about it.”
The Bulldawgs face four teams with a combined record of 37-13 in 2013, including the Tigers and Lake Travis, before starting their District 12-6A schedule — and stopping opposing offenses will be crucial for the team to succeed.
At the Blue-Gold Game, the defense stood out numerous times.
In consecutive first-quarter possessions, cornerback Quentin Donnel and safety Michael Onco intercepted passes before teammate Tristan Marez delivered a sack.
Early in the second quarter, cornerback Devin Wilson-Williams stripped and recovered the ball on a run play. Outside linebacker Jace Leimbach broke up a pass and recorded a sack before halftime.
The defensive highlight of the evening went to sophomore Shamad Lomax, who picked off quarterback Manny Harris near the goal line, returning the ball for a 95-yard touchdown. A personal foul, however, negated the score.
Despite producing a solid showing during the spring game, Copperas Cove defensive end Tyrell Thompson admits there was a time when the defense was not as impressive.
“On the first day of spring ball, the offense was just killing us,” he said. “By the second or third week of Coach Welch yelling at us, we finally got what he was saying, and the defense has really improved.”
Experiencing things from the other side of the line of scrimmage, Harris, who is verbally committed to play at Texas-San Antonio, agrees the defense is evolving into a force.
“I think our defense is going to be one of the top defenses in the state,” he said. “They are looking really good. We have some great players – great linebackers, great defensive linemen and our secondary is looking really good.”
A key player for the Bulldawgs will be linebacker Jaylen Waters, who led Copperas Cove in tackles for a loss (13), sacks (4) and caused fumbles (4) — finishing with 102 total tackles during his junior season.
Feeling confident the offense will produce, Waters believes defense will determine the Bulldawgs’ fate.
“Our offense is great,” he said. “They are going to score no matter what. I’m not worried about the offense. On defense, we have to make plays. This defense has got to win our games.”