36 unanswered points ends Dawgs season
By TJ MAXWELL
ROCKWALL -- The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs fought and clawed to take a 35-31 lead with 8:43 left in the third quarter but 36 unanswered points by the Yellowjackets over the final quarter and a half was was too much to overcome for the Dawgs as they fell 67-35 at the hands of Rockwall Friday night in the Bidistrict round of the 2015 UIL State Football Playoffs at Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium in Rockwall.
The Bulldawgs and Yellowjackets went blow-for-blow for the first 28 minutes before Rockwall broke the game open with four rushing touchdowns by senior running back Caleb Broach in just over eight minutes of game time, spanning the third and fourth quarters.
“The bottom line is we just couldn't stop them,” said Cove head coach Jack Welch. “Our defense could not stop them or hold them and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Broach gave Rockwall the lead back with a 76-yard touchdown run to answer the 81-yard touchdown run by Cove senior Antonio Lealiiee that put Cove on top 35-31.
The Dawgs had a chance to extend that lead with a successful onside kick but a missed field goal attempt by senior Cameron Irvine stalled the Cove drive inside the Rockwall 20.
Two plays later Broach and the Yellowjackets took the lead for good with the long touchdown run.
A huge defensive stand by the Yellowjackets on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 forced a turnover on downs at the Dawgs' 32-yard line and Rockwall made them pay for it. Rockwall quickly drove the 32 yards for another Broach touchdown run and a 45-35 lead with 25 seconds left in the third.
“To be frank, we weren't stopping them whether they had to go 30 yards or 80 yards,” said Welch. “The key for us is we had to get the football and keep it in our hands so we did everything could to try to do that. We came up short but I praise God for how hard these kids worked and battled.”
Cove took another step in the wrong direction on their next possession. The snap on the punt sailed over Lealiiee's head and through the end zone for a safety.
The Yellowjackets added insult to injury with a score on the extra possession resulting from the safety. Broach ran it in for two yards out after snagging a pass over the middle that went for 43 yards and set up Rockwall at the Cove two.
A fumble by the Bulldawgs on the ensuing possession again set up the Yellowjackets in Bulldawg territory and Broach carried into the end zone from four yards out for his eighth rushing touchdown of the night.
The Yellowjackets rounded out their scoring with a quarterback keeper from a yard out by junior quarterback Matt Jones that capped an eight-play, 67-yard drive.
Cove came out with a purpose in the third quarter, twice taking the lead.
The Dawgs put together a seven-play, 76-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Garner to senior wideout Ra'Shaun Henry. Runs by Lealiiee helped set up the score.
Rockwall responded with a one-play score from 29 yards out by Broach after an onside kick attempt was returned 26 yards to the Cove 29 by senior Sam Crawford.
After the Yellowjackets drew first blood to start the game with a 10-play scoring drive, the Bulldawgs responded with two touchdowns in 52 seconds to take a 14-7 lead.
Senior running back Antonio Lealiiee broke loose on a 74-yard touchdown run on the second play of the drive to knot the game at 7-all.
An onside kick by Mississippi transfer Cameron Irvine was recovered at the Rockwall 33 by senior Sean Bedford. A pair of runs by junior Kylan Herrera for 15 yards set up the Dawgs at the Yellowjackets' 18 and junior quarterback Caine Garner finished the drive with an 18-yard run up the middle on a quarterback keeper for the score.
“Kicking game-wise we were rolling the dice,” said Welch. “We knew we had to go for it and we got a couple great onside kicks. Coming into this ball game, I had the suspicion we were going to have a tough time holding them. If I can't hold them, then if I score, I'm going to have to try to get the ball right back and score again. That was my game plan and that's what I tried to do. Right or wrong, that's what I went for and it dang-near worked.”
It didn't take long for Rockwall to respond as senior running back Caleb Broach broke a 54-yard touchdown run to cap a two-play drive and knot thee game at 14-all.
The Yellowjackets regained the lead, 17-14, with 8:47 left in the second quarter when senior kicker Jacob Viquez connected on a 27-yard field goal after a pass break up by senior Justin Orr halted the Rockwall drive.
The 'Jackets extended that lead on their next drive after the Dawgs turned the ball over on downs at their own 40. Broach scored on a 26-yard run to cap the three-play, 42 second drive to give Rockwall a 24-14 lead.
The Bulldawgs cut the Yellowjackets' lead to three, 24-21, just before the break. A 16-yard run by Lealiiee finished off a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive.Passes from Garner senior Marcus Brumfield and junior Kendall Small pushed the Dawgs to mid-field and a pair of runs by Lealiiee set up the Dawgs inside the Rockwall red zone.
Broach led the night with 316 yards and eight touchdowns on 27 carries for the Yellowjackets. Broach had another 43 yards on a pass completion. Jones was 8 for 12 for 153 yards and an interception. Crawford was his favorite target.He had four grabs for 52 yards.
Blake Barron led the Rockwall defense with 4 tackles.
Cove was led by Lealiiee's 274 yards and three scores on 19 carries. Garner was 18 for 29 passing with one touchdown and he had another score on 12 carries for 47 yards.
Junior Kendall Small was Garner's favorite target.He had six grabs for 58 yards while Henry had four grabs for 40 yards and a score.
Senior D'Mani Paepaelalo led the Bulldawgs defense with six tackles and senior Sean Bedford added five tackles.
Senior Shamad Lomax had seven kickoff returns for 145 yards.
The Bulldawgs finish the year 3-8. The Yellowjackets improve to 8-3 on the year and will face Dallas Jesuit in the Area Round Friday at Kimbrough Stadium in Canyon.
The Bulldawgs will graduate 29 seniors from the playoff roster and Welch is afraid history won't recognize this group of seniors for their hard work and contributions to the program.
“They won't get the credit for how good of a group they were,” he said. “They won't get the credit because of those first four ball games. This group is going to be remembered as a group that had a tremendous schedule on them and they made the playoffs against all odds. They came in here tonight and we had the lead a couple times and thought we could win the ball game.”
Coach Welch and his staff will review this year and see what changes need to be made in the off season, especially on a defense that allowed 43.5 points per game this season.
“We are probably going to have to go into the off season and shake some things up,” he said. “We have got to develop a defense and a defensive philosophy and we've got to get people stopped.”