By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
When the applause died down Thursday, the Bulldawgs were ready.
One day remains until they take the field at the Round Rock Independent School District stadium to fight for the Division 1-4A crown for the 2007 season in what will be many of the players' final performances, and thousands of Cove fans are prepared to go with them.
As Copperas Cove High School junior Kimberly Banth said, "The whole town will be empty (on Saturday)," adding that the Bulldawgs will soon be state champions.
"I think I'm Cove's No. 1 fan," said Copperas Cove resident Fariba Karpoff, quick to point out that the city is home to many "No. 1 fans."
Many of those fans showed their colors during Thursday's pep rally at Copperas Cove's Bulldawg Stadium, cheering for each player on the championship game-bound Bulldawg football team.
After a video introduction to the tune of "Heart of a Champion" and performances by the Copperettes, cheerleaders and the Pride of Cove Marching Band, players took the field. Introduced individually, each Bulldawg – most in full gear – made the long run to the center of the field to the sound of applause.
Karpoff was only one of hundreds in the stands at the rally.
"I just bring my hometown spirit," she said.
Last year, her spirit took a hit with Copperas Cove football, when the team dropped just short of claiming the state championship.
"I watched them fall last year, and it's kind of hard," she said, looking forward to what she hopes will be a different outcome for the Division 1-4A championship game this year. "They're good kids. They work hard. They deserve this."
It was a feeling shared by many of the fans cheering at the rally.
Deon Swan, cheering for her hometown team, said it's not just people in Cove who will be looking forward to the outcome of the game. Along with Cove residents Marcy Miller and Wayne Burke, she said they'll be getting a call from Qatar on Saturday, when their friend Patrick Hogan wants to know the score.
Burke, confident about Cove's chances, forecast a 46-33 victory.
With Joe Lombardi taking on the role of emcee, the rally was complete with speeches by the offensive and defensive captains, by head coach Jack Welch – even by Copperas Cove Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Rose Cameron (or, as Lombardi called her on the field, "Dr. Sparkles"), who donned a Bulldawg mascot costume for the rally.
The players took the night more seriously. Having been to the championship game before, this year will be different, standout quarterback Robert Griffin III said.
The Bulldawgs "are not going to be in shock and awe," he said. "We'll be ready."
Speaking to hundreds of listening fans, Welch said the same.
"We've been blessed," he said. "This is our second chance. We're going to win. We're gonna take what's rightfully ours."
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428