By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - The seniors at Copperas Cove were in the sixth grade the last time the Bulldawgs beat A&M Consolidated.
The schools didn't play for two seasons when Cove dropped down to Class 4A, but it's been 0-for-3 since the Dawgs' return to 12-5A in 2008.
They were due. And with a chance to have the district championship run through Cove, the Dawgs held on. After missing a field goal with 21 seconds to play, Cove didn't allow A&M Consolidated to answer and walked off with a 23-21 win Friday at Bulldawg Stadium.
"We played hard every play," Cove head coach Jack Welch said. "I don't think there was a play anybody took off. There were some plays where we messed up, made some mistakes.
"But I thought we played hard every play of the game tonight. If we hadn't, we would have lost this game."
Cove (7-1, 5-0) had to play until the end - A&M Consolidated never went away. After trailing the entire first half and well into the third quarter, the Tigers (4-4, 4-1) took their first lead with 4:35 left in the third. Quarterback Weston Garner capped a six-play, 80-yard drive with a sneak from a yard out.
That swung the momentum toward A&M Consolidated's favor - at least until the fourth quarter.
Cove answered with Eli Kuhns' third field goal of the day. He nailed the 24-yard with 6:59 left to play. Kuhns also made kicks from 47 and 48 yards.
"He's a weapon," Welch said. "Eli Kuhns is a weapon. He can place that football on kickoffs wherever you want it, he does a great job on his field goal and a great job with his punting. Very seldom do you find kickers like that."
Kuhns had a chance to make it 4-for-4, but had a 21-yard try hit off the left upright with 21 seconds to play. Cove had just recovered a Tiger fumble from standout running back Quinton White, who scored twice to in the second quarter to get A&M Consolidated back in the game.
Reggie Hampton recovered the loose ball and the Cove offense moved to the Tiger 4 while milking the nearly all of the final four minutes of play.
The miss gave the Tigers one final chance to move 80 yards with no timeouts. A 13-yard pass from Garner to White was quickly nullified when Tremayne Jackson sacked the Tiger quarterback. Garner was able to spike the ball with a second to play, but his final heave was intercepted to end the game.
"It was going to come down to four quarters," A&M Consolidated head coach David Raffield said. "I think we made one more mistake than they did."
Kuhns' 47-yard field goal gave Cove the early lead, while the Dawgs held A&M Consolidated in check until four minutes into the second quarter.
During that stretch, the Tigers recovered a Cove fumble on the Dawgs' first offensive play, but couldn't punch it in despite being inside Cove's 20. They went for it on fourth down, but Garner was stopped short.
Cove also forced two punts in the quarter while building a 10-0 lead.
Following A&M Consolidated's second punt, the Dawgs went 55 yards on eight plays. Cove almost lost a fumble - Thomas lost the ball running to his left, but Jose Ordonez couldn't corral the loose ball, keeping possession with the Dawgs.
Cove went back to the Thomas, and the future Texas Longhorn went 23 yards for the touchdown. He finished with 138 yards rushing while running back Brandon Hamilton ran for 108.
The Tigers then found a groove, answering Cove's touchdown with White's first. White then picked up his second after Thomas found Rashaun Gibson for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Gibson put Cove up 17-7 with 5:16 left in the first half, with White cutting the lead back to three (17-14) in the half's final minute.