HEWITT — The game was over, but Copperas Cove Jack Welch was not finished with it.
The longtime head coach wanted to keep going, wanted to keep watching the Bulldawgs fight for a win many others would have chalked up at halftime.
Leo Peralta kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime to salvage Waco Midway’s homecoming, quashing Cove’s rally after the Bulldawgs turned a potential rout into a 42-39 nail-biter Friday at Panther Stadium.
“I’m about ready to fistfight. I don’t give up. We’re aggressive people, aggressive team. I am proud of these boys, very proud of them, but the bottom line is we came here to win this game, take the victory back,” Welch said. “Moral victories and all those things, bottom line is we could’ve given up tonight at halftime, we didn’t. We came back.”
The Panthers led by 21 early in the third quarter, but needed Peralta’s field goal in the extra period to hold off Copperas Cove and stay ahead of the District 8-5A rat race.
Cove quarterback Manny Harris completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hunter McVeigh with 18 seconds left to tie the game at 39, but threw three straight incompletions in overtime and Jayson Stanley’s 42-yard field goal try sailed wide right ending the Bulldawgs’ fight and keeping the Panthers (5-1, 3-0 8-5A) atop the 8-5A standings while everyone else in the district continues to play musical chairs.
Harris completed 37 of 61 passes for 532 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Bulldawgs offense tallied 692 yards of total offense without turning the ball over. Shaq Fluelen ran 12 times for 97 yards and scored three touchdowns, two in the third quarter when the Bulldawgs (3-3, 1-2) outscored Midway 22-7. McVeigh finished with 203 yards and one touchdown on 10 catches and Philip Baptiste had 14 catches for 164 yards.
The Bulldawgs’ defense, after allowing more than 350 yards in the first half, held the Panthers to just 200 yards and 10 points in the second half and overtime.
“(Our coaches) figured it out and we adjusted and then it was up to us players to make plays and not think about it and just go,” Cove senior linebacker Elijah Timarky said of the Bulldawgs’ second-half adjustments.
Midway scored 10 straight points to take a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. After a 26-yard field goal by Cove’s Stanley cut the Midway lead to seven, the Panthers scored 14 points in the final 2:08 of the first half to lead 32-10 at the intermission.
Midway quarterback Ben Hicks completed a 56-yard touchdown throw to Devontre Stricklin on the Panthers’ third play of the second half to stretch Midway’s lead to 39-18 The Panthers were held scoreless for the rest of regulation.
“We had to zone in on what we were going to try to stop and try to make them one-dimensional (in the second half). That, I think, paid off,” Welch said. “I thought (defensive coordinator Reb) Brock did a tremendous job. ... We’ve got a young group over there, very inexperienced group. I thought tonight, they really, really improved that second half.”
Fluelen wrapped 1-yard and 3-yard touchdown runs around Midway’s only second-half touchdown, and Harris completed a 6-yard touchdown throw to Tre Powell with 2:09 left in the third to pull the Bulldawgs to within 39-32.
“We just came out the second half knowing we were going to give it all we had,” Harris said. “We grew up tonight. We became a better ballclub tonight. Midway just played an outstanding game tonight and they just beat us on the scoreboard.”
Harris broke Robert Griffin III’s single-season passing record on Cove’s opening drive of the game to set up Fluelen’s first touchdown of the game — a 3-yarder that tied the game at 7.
Harris completed his first seven pass attempts, including a 16-yarder to McVeigh that officially broke RG3’s 2006 single-season passing record of 2,007 yards and set up Fluelen’s first touchdown run. But the Bulldawgs punted twice in the second quarter after cutting Midway’s lead to 17-10.
“Our kids kept playing. These kids are warriors, they’re good warriors and I’m very proud of them. We had 692 yards total offense tonight. That’s almost unheard of,” Welch said. “and the only way you can do that is the defense has got to start getting you some stops, getting that ball back over to the offense.”
“The first half we had too many mistakes,” Baptiste said. “We were beating ourselves the first half. The second half we came out and we fought hard, we came back, but we fell short.”