By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO – Michael Jackson's "Thriller" ain't got nothing on Friday night's Copperas Cove-Cypress Ridge Region II-5A semifinal.
In a game filled with twists and turns, highlight-reel plays and breathtaking moments, the Bulldawgs came out the last one standing. Josh Boyce pulled down Nic Greene's pass with nine seconds remaining as Cove somehow walked away with an unbelievable 55-48 victory at Waco ISD Stadium.
Greene rolled out to the right hashmark and hung the ball for his senior wide receiver. Boyce out-jumped Rams' defensive back Greg Jones at the 2-yard line and came down with the ball to break a game that seemed destined for overtime.
"That was the best game ever," said Boyce, the TCU commitment, holding the trophy in his hand. "For the catch, I just saw the defender come under me, so I knew I had to outjump him for the ball."
Cove will play the winner of the Klein Oak and Lake Highlands
game scheduled for today at 3 p.m. in Round Rock.
With all due respect to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers, "The Catch" seemed like it wouldn't happen. Cy-Ridge overcame a 45-28 deficit with 11:02 remaining in the fourth.
And they did it almost all on the legs and arm of LSU-bound quarterback Russell Shepard.
Shepard scored on a 2-yard run and then hit Chris Lecompte on a 19-yard pass to make the score 45-40. After Michael Roell's second field goal of the game, Shepard and the Rams looked doomed.
Cove forced Cy Ridge to a third-and-17 behind the work of Cooper Brock and Donnel Hawkins. But Shepard worked his magic and ran 76 yards for a touchdown. The No. 1 ranked dual-threat QB in the nation made a lethal cut at the 45 before making five Dawgs miss on his way to the end zone. Shepard also converted the two-point try to tie the game with 1:43 left.
Shepard accounted for 550 of Cy-Ridge's 602 total yards and six of the team's seven touchdowns.
"That may be the best high school athlete I've ever played," Dawgs coach Jack Welch said. "He was incredible."
Cove would get another chance. Greene, however, made his first mistake of the night. He underthrew Boyce, who slipped on the play, and Craig Roberson picked off the pass. Roberson returned the ball to the Cove 44 and a late-hit penalty gave the Rams the ball at the 29-yard line.
On the next play, redemption struck for the Dawgs. Shepard tried to deke and duck his way around the pocket, but the ball popped out of his hands and landed in Cooper Brock's.
The plays were both team's first turnovers of the game, and Cove made the Rams pay.
Will Wright ran for 247 yards on just 19 carries. He scored on runs of 71 and 73 yards, both on the same play call: off-tackle to the right. He also added a 10-yard touchdown.
"I give credit to the offensive line," Wright said. "They opened up big holes and allowed me to pound away."
The Dawgs actually came back from deficits of 13-0 and 21-13.
Shepard put the Rams ahead 21-14 on a 55-yard strike to Kevin Johnson. Shepard faked a handoff and then gave a head pump as if he wanted to run. The Bulldawg safeties and linebackers stepped up, and Shepard found Johnson all alone in the middle of the field with 2:26 left in the first half.
Cove, behind Greene's best drive of the season until that point, responded. Greene completed a pass to Josh Kasten and then ran for a few more to put Cove at the Rams 30. Then, the junior rolled out to his left and tossed a floater off his back foot to Brelan Chancellor. Chancellor, who beat his defender, grabbed the ball by his fingertips and stumbled into the end zone to tie the game at 21 with 45 seconds left in the second.
The deadlock, however, was far from certain. Johnson took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Cove 25. On the next play, Shepard appeared to score on the quarterback draw, but Deneldric Hudgens barely dragged down the senior standout at the 1. The Dawgs stuffed running back Mike Powell. The Rams managed to spike the ball with one second left, and on the fourth-and-one, Reggie Chapman brought down Shepard to preserve the tie.
"I tell the guys to play 24 minutes, not 23 minutes and 59 seconds," Welch said. "That was a great play."
Cypress Ridge dominated the first quarter. Shepard compiled 91 rush yards as Cove couldn't wrap the future LSU Tiger up. The Rams scored on a 17-yard pass to Chris Lecompte after an eight-play 62-yard drive. On the Rams' next possession, Shepard led his team 84 yards, 36 of which came on a highlight-reel run where Shepard dodged just about every Cove defender twice. Powell punched the ball in from 2 yards out and the Rams had a 13-0 lead.
Cove struggled with two straight three-and-outs before Tanner Brock saved the season. Facing a fourth and one from their own 25, Brock took a fake punt off-tackle for a first down.
"I told Tanner to make a play," Welch said. "It wasn't a smart play call by me, but down 13-0, I knew we needed something."
Green made the play count when he scored a touchdown on a nice option-read fake to Byrd.
"This team is just resilient," Welch said. "They never get down. They're a team first. And it really showed tonight."
Contact Evan Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.