Bulldawgs fall to Elks 41-38 in heartbreaking home opener
By TJ MAXWELL
The Bulldawgs came up with a big drive when they needed it. Trailing 34-31 with 5:39 remaining, the Bulldawgs drove 69 yards in seven plays to score on a one-yard plunge by senior running back Micah Cox with 2:03 left on the clock.
However, the Elks had an answer of their own. After a huge fourth-down conversion run by Burleson senior quarterback Blake Myers on 4th and 4, the senior found senior wide receiver Jaxon Winburn for the game-winning score with 10 seconds remaining on a 23-yard connection that gave the Elks the 41-38 win.
“I thought the character of the kids showed tonight,” said Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez. “They fought all the way back and got back ahead but (Burleson) got out of a jam late in that fourth quarter, went down and got a score. They did what they had to do to win and we did what we had to do to make a game of it.
“I’m proud of the kids. I told them, ‘I wouldn’t trade them for the world.’ They worked their tails off for me, they believe in each other and they’re working hard. That’s all a football coach could ever ask for.””
Myers combined for 323 yards and three touchdowns to lead Burleson to the win. He had 17 carries for for 131 yards and a score and added two more on 10 for 28 passing for 192 yards.
“Going into the game, we knew the quarterback was very agile,” said senior defensive back Christian Tuiasosopo. “Our first task was to contain him. Earlier in the game we couldn’t contain him, but we tightened up a little bit and started put licks on him.”
Trailing 24-14 at the half, the Elks scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to go from 10 points down to 10 up in just over eight minutes of game action. Three third-quarter turnovers by the Dawgs and another late in the second quarter contributed to the swing.
“Late in the second quarter is when the tide started turning on us turnover-wise,” said Alvarez. “It’s just a tough night. That’s not how I had it panned. I promise. I thought we’d all be happy right now. Hats off to Burleson. They played really hard and they’re a physical football team, but the woes came at our own hands. We were our own worst enemy.”
The Bulldawgs pulled back within a field goal with a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Elijah De La Cruz to cap a nine-play, 71-yard scoring drive with 10:27 left in game.
The Elks took advantage of an interception by sophomore Tre Allison to narrow the gap to just three points, 24-21, with a four-play, 54-yard drive that culminated in a 37-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jarrett Austin.
The Elks then took the first lead of the night two plays later on a 20-yard touchdown run by Myers with 5:25 left in the third quarter after senior linebacker Vernon Bullock picked off the pass of Cove junior quarterback Russel Cochran and returned it to the 20 after a penalty moved it back 15 yards.
The Elks added to their lead with a 55-yard run through traffic by senior running back Caleb Lewis after a muffed punt by Cove senior Malaich Lyons gave the Elks the ball at the their own 41-yard line.
A missed 23-yard field goal attempt by Zaragoza would have given Burleson an early lead with 7:52 left in the opening frame.
The Bulldawgs opened the scoring with an 80-yard scoring drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown run by senior Micah Cox with 4:03 left in the first quarter.
The Elks answered back quickly with a seven-play, 67-yard drive, culminating in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Myers to Husband for a 7-7 score after the Zaragoza kick with.
The Bulldawgs regained the lead when Cochran dove in from two yards out to cap a 45-yard scoring drive with 11:18 left in the second quarter. A 40-yard kickoff return by De La Cruz and a 32-yard run by Cox.
The Bulldawgs added another score on a 26-yard field goal by senior kicker Cameron Ryan with 6:38 left in the first half.
Burleson cut the Cove lead to just three, 17-14, with a nine-play, 73-yard drive capped by a one-yard plunge by Austin with 4:31 left in the half.
It took just 15 seconds for Cove to answer as De La Cruz took the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for the score and a 24-14 lead after the Ryan extra point with 4:16 left in the quarter.
The Elks and Bulldawgs closed the first half with a pair of defensive plays. An interception by Cove’s Jerome Gaillard at the Copperas Cove 26-yard line gave the Dawgs one last opportunity to score with 2:47 left in the half. However, an interception by Burleson’s Maynard at the Bulldawgs’ 31-yard line gave the Elks the ball back with 1:05 left but they were unable to capitalize.
Despite trailing 24-14 at the halftime break, the Elks outgained the Bulldawgs with 257 yards on 34 plays to the Bulldawgs’ 221 yards on 31 plays.
The Bulldawgs had the edge on the ground with 130 rush yards on 21 attempts while the Elks had the edge through the air with 148 yards on 5 for 15 passing by Myers in the first half.
The Elks finished with 456 total yards of offense on 61 plays while the Bulldawgs finished with 422 yards on 63 plays.
The Elks also won the turnover battle with four takeaways and just one giveaway.
Cox had 18 carries for 149 yards and two scores to lead the Bulldawgs’ offense while De La Cruz ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in his first game in over a year after missing his entire junior campaign with a leg injury. Junior quarterback Russel Cochran added 52 yards on nine carries. De La Cruz also had a 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to help Cove build a 24-14 halftime lead.
“I give that all to the kick return team,” said De La Cruz. “They put their blocks down and I followed them. They opened a hole for me, and I took it.”
Myers accounted for most of the Elks’ offense with 323 combined yards while Austin added 69 yards and two scores on 13 carries and Lewis added 64 yards and a score on three carries. Leiws was also Myers favorite target in the passing game with 92 yards on four catches. Winburn had just one reception for the 23-yard game winner and husband had one catch for 21 yards and a score.
Seniors Kendall Parker and Christian Tuiasosopo led the Bulldawgs in tackles with six each and senior Jerome Gaillard had four tackles and an interception.
Allison led the Burleson defense with eight tackles and an interception, followed by Luca Williams (6.5 tackles, including one for a loss.
The Bulldawgs look to get back in the win column when they host the Manor Mustangs this Firday at Bulldawg Stadium.
“Manor is always talented so it’s going to be a challenge,” said Alvarez. “We’ll strap it back on and go to work.”