Like most places in Texas, the school year starts and ends with football.
And that was no different at Copperas Cove, where the Bulldawgs were once again the toast of the town, winning Cove's first outright district title since 2005 with a perfect run through District 12-5A.
But, unlike in previous years, the gridiron success didn't end there as the Bulldawgs rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Mesquite Horn after stopping a two-point conversion try to secure their first playoff victory since 2008.
Led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Rice-bound bruiser Brandon Hamilton and current Texas freshman Orlando Thomas at quarterback, the thunder and lightning backfield combination kept Cove rolling well into November.
But football wasn't the only postseason success story to come this past year, with the volleyball and girls soccer teams each making the playoffs for consecutive years and the boys track team earning back-to-back District 12-5A championships for the first time in more than a decade.
But individually, Cove continued its streak of state track and field medalists when little sophomore Qiana Canete found her second calling in the high jump. Normally just a volleyball player, Canete began competing in track as an offseason conditioning tool and ended the season on the medal stand when she finished tied for third at the Class 5A state track meet with a leap of 5-foot-4.
Although Cove may have lost quite a lot of name-talent from this past year, including Division I-bound standouts Hamilton, Thomas, and Amy Rosenbaum (Baylor) in volleyball, the cupboard is far from bare as the Bulldawgs enter 2013.
Top 5 performances
1. Perfection: Brandon Hamilton ran for 138 yards and four touchdowns and quarterback Orlando Thomas turned a broken play into a 65-yard touchdown run as the Bulldawgs (10-1, 7-0 12-5A) locked up their first outright district championship since 2005 with a 36-12 victory over Harker Heights in the regular-season finale Nov. 4.
2. Canete jumps to state: In just her first season competing in track and field, Qiane Canete walked away with bronze in the high jump after clearing 5-foot-4 at the Class 5A state meet on May 12 at Mike A. Myers Stadium. This was two weeks after she cleared a personal-best height of 5-7 inches to win gold at the Region II meet.
3. Back-to-back in track: Led by its two gold-medal 400- and 800-meter relays, the Bulldawgs medaled in 12 events to win a second-straight District 12-5A boys track and field championship on April 12. The only individual gold Cove would take home was in the shot put, where senior Ray Jones won with a preliminary toss of 53-11.
4. No pain, no gain: Despite two senior mainstays suffering from illnesses, the Lady Bulldawgs volleyball team battled through for a commanding 25-8, 25-19, 25-21 victory over Tyler Lee in their Region II-5A bi-district playoff game Oct. 31. Baylor-bound Amy Rosenbaum fought a fever for 37 assists, six kills and two blocks while libero Claire Taylor led the defensive effort with 21 digs.
5. Walk-off magic: With senior teammate Ty Johnson stuck on third and the Bulldawgs locked in a marathon 6-6 tie in the 12th inning, Joel Hogan blooped an RBI single right behind second base to secure a 7-6 victory over Ellison on March 16. Hogan, who was 4-for-7 at the plate with 3 RBIs and a run, also helped Cove jump out to a 3-0 start in District 12-5A play.
5 players to watch in 2012-13
1. Qiane Canete, volleyball/track: The sophomore finished tied for third in the 5A girls high jump at the state track and field championships with a height of 5-4 in her very first track season, and helped the volleyball team to a runner-up finish in 12-5A.
2. Irene Espinoza, softball: Replacing one power shortstop with another, the sophomore has filled in admirably in two years, including belting an area-best eight home runs with a .450 batting average this past season.
3. Shelbie Letzer, girls soccer: The sophomore midfielder paced the Lady Bulldawgs soccer team to a second-straight playoff appearance and will undoubtedly look to improve the streak after Cove (13-12-1, 7-6-1 12-5A) backed into the playoffs with blowout victory in the regular-season finale.
4. Darius McClinton, football: The rising senior has been a stopper for the Bulldawgs' defense each of the last two years on varsity, including clinching Cove's first playoff victory since 2008 with a goal-line tackle of Mesquite Horn running back Medgar Coleman.
5. Rashard Odomes, basketball: Just a freshman, the 6-foot-5 Odomes played above the rim all season, keeping the Bulldawgs in the mix for a playoff berth late into the season after averaging 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.