By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Nearly all of the talk leading up to Friday's meeting between Copperas Cove and Southlake Carroll surrounding Carroll's quarterback situation.
Maybe everyone should have been talking to Cove quarterback Orlando Thomas.
Or at least the Bulldawg rushing attack.
Cove's defense came up with three opportunistic turnovers, the offense ran for 380 yards and the Dawgs knocked off Carroll 35-14 at Bulldawg Stadium.
Cove (1-0) attempted just one pass - a 47-yard screen to William Randolph for the Dawgs' first score. They had two 100-yard rushers and nearly had a third.
"It wasn't a one-man running game. Who are you going to stop?" Welch said. "That's the whole key. It has to be more than one man. You can stop one man."
Thomas, getting his first start under center after playing receiver last season, ran 20 times for 136 yards. Randolph had 129 yards, while Brandon Hamilton added 87 yards. All scored, with Thomas, Hamilton and Johnny Sirmans, who scored Cove's fourth rushing touchdown, turning a 14-14 tie into a runaway.
Cove had just one first-half drive over five plays. The Dawgs had three in the second half, scoring off two and ending the game on the third.
"The offensive line did great," Thomas said. "The blocking was great."
Said Randolph: "The game is won at the line. So without them, as a running back, you can't do too much."
The game ended a media storm this week for the Dragons, who were without starting quarterback Daxx Garman. The senior, who transferred to Carroll in February, was ruled ineligible early Friday afternoon by Carroll's District (7-5A) Executive Committee. A Dallas-area news report Tuesday night questioned Garman's eligibility after he moved from Oklahoma, where he was rule ineligible at his last high school.
Carroll (0-1) turned to backup Drew Ahmuty, who finished 15-of-23 for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
The junior had two costly interceptions however, as Cove's defense not only held Carroll in the second half, but made big plays when needed.
"You praise the Lord for that," Welch said of his defense. "You keep playing – that's what we preach. You play through the game. That's what they did."
Carroll fumbled at Cove's goal line in the first quarter and sophomore Eric Raysor came up with the ball to turn away a would-be Dragon touchdown.
At the end of the second, Carroll reached Cove's 17-yard line when Ahmuty threw a pass to Peyton Williams in the back corner of the end zone. Cove's Gene Gilbert was between Williams and the ball, and the cornerback intercepted the pass to preserve the 14-14 tie.
It happened a third time, after Thomas capped a 68-yard drive with his nine-yard score. With Carroll in Cove territory, Ahmuty looked deep across the middle to Roman Namder. The pass was deflected up, where safety Myron Taylor tipped the ball to himself, hauling in the interception.
"We just knew what we had to do to win this game and we executed," Taylor said.
Cove then went right down the field – 90 yards on 10 plays – and Sirmans ran the final 20 for the three-score advantage.