COPPERAS COVE — It had been nearly a year to the date — 364 days to be exact — since the last time the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs walked off the field victorious. Friday night, they did just that, snapping a 12-game losing streak dating back to last year with a commanding, 56-33 win over the Killeen Kangaroos.
Copperas Cove head coach Jason Hammett said he felt the confidence building in his team well before the game kicked off Friday evening.
“We told the kids last week we played good enough in a lot of ways to win the game last week,” Hammett said after the win.
Referring to last week’s loss to Shoemaker, Hammett said it was turnovers and “dumb mistakes” that turned the tide in the 58-35 loss.
He said he told his team after the loss that he felt they played better physically than Shoemaker.
“Our kids believed it,” Hammett said. “When we started this week ... they had a good week in practice and really focused on what was going on.”
The Bulldawgs took advantage of the Kangaroo offense and special teams that made a myriad of mistakes.
In total, the Bulldawgs took the ball from the Kangaroos five times on three fumbles and two interceptions.
Two of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns.
In the second quarter, facing a fourth down from its own 41, a bad snap sailed over the head of Killeen punter Gregory Gant. Nobody was able to corral it until Copperas Cove’s Chandler Gastelo did so at the 7-yard line and ran it in for the touchdown.
Later in the fourth quarter, Killeen’s Roderick Norman dropped back for a screen pass that bounced off the hands of Cade Searcy. Copperas Cove freshman Xavier Taclibon picked it out of the air and took it 75 yards for a pick-six.
“Our defense hung in there — very opportunistic,” Hammett said.
For Killeen coach Neil Searcy, Friday’s game was like Murphy’s Law.
“Everything that can go wrong in a football game for us tonight, it went wrong,” he said after the game.
Two of Killeen’s other three turnovers came in rapid succession of the defensive scores.
After Gastelo’s touchdown, a face mask penalty against Killeen meant Copperas Cove would kick off from the Killeen 45. On the squib kick, no one from the Kangaroo return unit could handle the football, and Copperas Cove's Tayvon McManemy fell on the live ball at the 4-yard line of Killeen.
The Bulldawgs took advantage of the short field. Three plays after the recovery, Malcom Roberts scored from 2 yards out, his first of three touchdowns on the game.
On a two-point conversion attempt following the score, Shane Richey found Ezekiel Kaleopa-Lynn, giving the Bulldawgs a 21-7 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, following Taclibon’s pick-six, the Kangaroos had the ball at their own 14-yard line. Norman looked to scramble, and as he was doing so, he lost the handle on the football around the 9.
Copperas Cove’s Coffa Tulensru fell on the football, giving the Bulldawgs good field position again.
A few plays later, Richey kept it himself and took it to the outside for a 12-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
“You know, we shot ourselves in the foot all night long. Hats off to Copperas Cove. They played a good game and had a good game plan against us,” Neil Searcy said. “We just didn’t play well — bottom line. We gotta play better than that.”
Killeen hadn't lost to Cove since Sept. 26, 2014, when the Bulldawgs prevailed 35-20 at Bulldawg Stadium.
With frustration mounting, the Kangaroos were flagged for a number of 15-yard personal fouls and unsportsmanlike penalties.
“That’s disappointing — those kind of penalties,” Neil Searcy said. “I can stand the hard-work penalties, but the personal foul penalties after the plays and stuff like that, it’s not acceptable and we’re going to take care of that on Monday."
The Kangaroos got off to a good start in the game, taking the ball downfield on the first drive, going 63 yards in seven plays, with Norman getting in on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
The drive featured a 26-yard run by De’Van’Te Johnson on the second play.
On the ensuing drive, the Bulldawgs engineered their own long drive, covering 75 yards in 10 plays.
A pass interference penalty by Killeen on third-and-23 kept the drive alive for the Bulldawgs who responded when Richey took it in from 8 yards out. The kick missed, and the Kangaroos held a 7-6 lead.
Later in the first quarter, looking to tack on more, the Kangaroos had marched from their own 35 to the Bulldawg 10. On third-and-goal from the 10, Norman threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Copperas Cove’s Jalien Thomas, the first of the five turnovers.
Much of the scoring Friday happened in the second half.
In the third quarter, Roberts opened the scoring with a 6-yard run on the opening drive for Copperas Cove.
On the next drive, the Kangaroos answered right back. On a drive that featured a 14-yard pass from Norman to Jacobia Thomas and a 20-yard run by Norman, Emory Arthur capped it off with a 1-yard rush.
Immediately after that drive, Copperas Cove stormed back downfield, with Richey finding Kaleopa-Lynn for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
In the fourth quarter, Roberts essentially sealed the game with a 51-yard touchdown run with around 5:45 remaining, giving the Bulldawgs a 56-27 lead.
Roberts' third and final score of the game was sandwiched in between two late scores by Killeen.
On the drive prior, Killeen scored a 34-yard pass from Cade Searcy to Thomas. Cade Searcy took over at the helm in the fourth after Norman took a jarring hit by a Bulldawg defender on a pass that fell incomplete.
On the ensuing drive after the last touchdown by Cove, Killeen marched down the field and scored on a 2-yard run by Cade Searcy. After both late touchdowns, the Kangaroos attempted two-point conversions that were unsuccessful.
“I’m so proud of these kids that they were able to put it together for four quarters and take care of a good team,” Hammett said.
Killeen returns to Leo Buckley Stadium on Thursday for a game against the Bryan Vikings. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Copperas Cove remains at Bulldawg Stadium next week, set to take on Ellison on Friday evening at 7:30.
- Bryan 35, Shoemaker 15
- Copperas Cove 56, Killeen 33
- Harker Heights 57, Belton 21
- Temple 56, Ellison 27 (Thursday)
Harker Heights 2-1
Copperas Cove 1-2