Cove outlasts Belton 59-52
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs and Belton Tigers exchanged blows for 48 minutes Friday night at Bulldawg Stadium but this time it was the Bulldawgs that landed the knockout blow.
“Our offense is clicking and we’re getting better with the pass,” said Jack Welch, head football coach and athletic director for the Bulldawgs. “The run is opening up our pass, where last year the pass would open up the run. The bottom line is you have to get them both going and we did that tonight. That’s very important. You can’t just hang with one or the other, they’ll shut it down. You have to be able to do both. We have to keep working in that area but I thought we took a big step.”
A touchdown pass from junior quarterback Caine Garner to senior Bradley Lawson put Cove in front 59-52, and a rare defensive stand secured the win for the Bulldawgs.
“I saw the safety playing on top of me so I had a choice of either direction,” said Lawson. “I stuck him inside and put him on my left side and Caine saw me right under and threw a perfect pass. It was amazing.”
Garner was glad to see his team take a big step in the right direction.
“It feels great to know all the hard work in practice and all season long finally paid off tonight,” he said. “We had to keep our heads up. If we get down, we just have to come back stronger and faster.”
After Belton scored 14 points in just over five minutes of game time to start the third period, it looked like it may be another disappointing night for the Bulldawgs and their fans, but 21 unanswered points by the Bulldawgs allowed them to take their first lead of the game, 45-38 to start the fourth period.
The much-maligned Cove defense surrendered 606 rushing yards but stood tall when it mattered most. A stop on fourth down on the Bulldawg one-yard line when the ball was snapped over the head of Belton quarterback and punter Peyton Mansell set up the go-ahead touchdown run by junior quarterback Caine Garner.
The Dawg defense stood tall once again forcing another turnover on downs with just over four minutes remaining but the offense was unable to take advantage and had to punt the ball away.
The Tigers then drove 81 yards on five plays for the tying score. A 66-yard run by Demetrius Brandon set up a two-yard score by Mansell for the 52-52 tie.
The Bulldawgs quickly answered after a 40-yard run by senior Marcus Brumfield set up the Dawgs in the Belton red zone. Two plays later, Garner found Lawson for the game-winning touchdown with just 37 seconds remaining.
Passes of 22- and 17-yards from Mansell to Taylor and Anthony Maribel, respectively, put Belton in a position for the tying score but a pass break up in the end zone by senior Shamad Lomax and two-way player Lawson preserved the victory for the Dawgs.
After both teams came up dry on their first possessions to begin the contest, the Bulldawgs and Tigers drank repeatedly from the scoring well on eight-consecutive possessions to take a 24-24 score into the locker room at halftime.
Belton junior running back Davion Peoples had three runs on three consecutive plays for 89 yards and a score to start the contest – taking just 37 seconds of the game clock to do so.
Cove responded with a five-play scoring drive, culminating in four-yard Garner touchdown run. A 34-yard run by junior Kylan Herrera, along with a 14-yard run by Brumfield, helped set up the score.
Belton regained the lead with a methodic 8-play drive, all runs, that began at their own 33. Brandon capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run.
Cove put together a seven-play scoring drive on their next possession with Ezekiel Jordan sneaking in the front left corner of the end zone for the four-yard touchdown run. A 22-yard quarterback keeper by Garner helped set up the score but a missed extra point left Cove trailing 14-13 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers pushed their lead to eight on the next possession when Brandon busted loose up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldawgs next possession stalled in the Tiger red zone and the Dawgs settled for a field goal by Zach Samarripi to cut the Tiger lead to five, 21-16.
The Tigers also had to settle for a field goal after an 11-play drive stalled at the Cove 10. The field goal by Roberto Barrios pushed Belton’s lead back to eight, 24-16 with 5:35 remaining in the half.
Cove quickly answered with a 53 second scoring drive. Herrera broke free for a 28-yard run and after runs by Brumfield and Jordan, broke loose again for 23 yards and the score. Trailing 24-22, the Dawgs converted the two-point conversion on a run by Garner to force the 24-all tie.
The Dawgs had a chance to take the lead before the half, but a 40-yard field goal attempt by Kryztian Wheeler just missed wide right.
The Dawgs were led by Herrera’s 123 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Brumfield added 137 yards and a score on seven carries.
Garner had his breakout performance from the quarterback position. He threw for 163 yards and a touchdown on 10 for 18 passing and ran for 64 yards and two scores and a two-point conversion.
“Caine’s performance was gutsy and had backbone,” said Welch. “He played through pain and made things happen. He never once gave any inkling that he wasn’t going to be in there. He was a leader and a winner. We’re proud of him and the improvements he’s been making.”
Senior Ra’shaun Henry led the Cove receivers with six grabs for 122 yards and Lawson had three grabs for 23 yards and a score. Lawson also had a fumble recovery and a pair of pass breakups at the safety position.
“(Lawson) coming over (to defense) has allowed some others to sit back and look and not just be thrown in the fire,” said Welch. “They’ll grow and get better. Bradley and J.P. (Urquidez) coming over (to the defense) has really helped us. I wish we had seven more of them.”
Lomax led the Dawgs defense with 9.5 tackles, including a tackle for a loss and junior Antoine Smith added six tackles with four going for losses.
“I felt pretty good, Smith said of his defensive performance. “I felt it was my day. I just wanted to go hard with my teammates. They motivated me.”
The Tigers were led by Peoples’ 303 yards and two scores on 28 carries. Brandon added 295 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries to pace Belton’s offense.
Taylor had three catches for 63 yards and a score for Belton and Mansell was 4 for 17 for 85 yards and a touchdown.