Beefy Knights power past Dawgs 27-7
By TJ MAXWELL
It was one of those kinds of games for Jack Welch and his Copperas Cove Bulldawgs football team in their 27-7 loss to the Harker Heights Knights at home on Friday.
Crucial mistakes at costly times, coupled with near misses at pay dirt opportunities, prevented the Dawgs from finding their groove and overcoming the size advantage of the beefy offensive line of the Knights that controlled the trenches.
“We didn’t show up the first half and we made a lot of mistakes,” said Welch. “When you’re playing a team that’s a lot bigger than you are, they try to wear you down. These guys controlled the clock tonight. When they control the clock, you’ve got to score quickly and we weren’t able to do that.
“It was of those things you grow from but you have to give credit where credit is due. That is a very good Harker Heights football team. They’ve had a couple hiccups this year where they’ve gotten beat and didn’t think they should have. I think they are very formidable and can beat anybody in our district.”
Nothing quite worked out for the Dawgs, even a scramble for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter by junior quarterback Jaylen Smith that came on fifth down.
I repeat – fifth down.
An officiating mistake allowed Cove a fifth down and Smith scrambled 16 yards for score on a play that never was. After a lengthy conference by officials, the touchdown was reversed.
“That was funny,” said Welch. “I was kind of waiting to see was he was going to say because they did make a mistake. That was the fifth down.”
The Dawgs had ample opportunities to cut into the Knights lead but nearly every attempt would come up short.
A turnover on downs on 4th and 2 at the Knights 24 cost the Dawgs a scoring opportunity trailing 7-0 in the first quarter and a short punt by Cove gave the power run game of the Knights a short field with 1st and 10 from their own 46.
A pair of penalties against Cove and strong running by the three-headed monster of senior Madu Eneli, Jameel Hodges and Jaquan Tillis highlighted an eight-play drive to give the Knights a 14-0 lead.
The Dawgs were starting to click offensively on the next drive, bolstered by a 34-yard kick off return by senior Kylan Herrera and a 31-yard pass play from senior quarterback Caine Garner to senior Isaiah McGriff to put the Dawgs in the Knights' red zone.
On the very next play, Garner had his pass intercepted and returned 80 yards for the score by senior linebacker Jared Kaltenbaugh with 2:32 left in the half.
Two plays before that, Garner’s pass appeared to be caught at the goal line by senior receiver Kendall Small but it was called incomplete.
“When you’re there, you have to score,” said Welch about the missed opportunities on offense. “They were controlling the clock, so when we got the ball, we needed to score.
“The bottom line is, we weren’t able to get in the groove or get in sync and a lot of that is because they are a good football team and have a good defense.”
The Dawgs played much better in the second half, equaling Harker Heights scoring output of seven points, needing triple that to get the win.
The Dawgs were able to mount some offense to begin the second half.
After a 16-yard kickoff return by junior Floyd Connell gave the Dawgs 1st and 10 at their own 30, the Dawgs executed some hard-nosed running of their own with a 33-yard run by junior bruiser Tim Edwards.
Two plays later, Garner found Small for a 42-yard touchdown grab to cut the Knights’ lead to two scores, 20-7.
“I thought we did get some things going in the second half but we just couldn’t capitalize,” said Welch. “It hurts when you down 20-7 against a team like that and you know they’re a running team and they’re controlling the clock. You’ve got to score and you’ve got to score quickly so you try to go quick and it gets you out of your game plan. They weren’t just going through our defense either. Our defense played well, but when you just barely get that first down and they let that clock run, it’s hard. That was a smart game plan and they did a good job of it.”
Cove literally fumbled away another scoring opportunity when the Knights stripped Edwards at the 19 after Connell had another long return on a punt to set up the Dawgs on the Knights’ 28.
Defensive stands forcing turnover on downs by both squads and a missed field goal attempt from 41 yards out kept it a two-score game until a 12-play, 62-yard scoring drive by the Knights iced the game and gave the Knights their first-ever win in 13 attempts against the Dawgs.
A couple of big 1st down conversions by Markel Reo and Eneli chewed up 6:37 of the final 7:47 of the game.
The beefy offensive line of Harker Heights proved to be too much for the undersized Dawg defense as the Knights pounded out 197 rush yards and two scores on the ground.
Junior running back Jaquan Tillis scored on a two-yard run to cap a six-play, 84-yard drive that took 3:08 off the clock for the first Knights’ score.
A 65-yard run by junior running back Jameel Hodges set up the Knights at the Dawgs two-yard line for the Tillis plunge with 1:48 left in the first period.
The Knights added to their lead with another Tillis score from a yard to cap an eight-play, 54-yard drive that took 4:56 off the clock.
Runs by Hodges and senior running back Madu Eneli set the Knights up in the Dawgs' red zone and runs by Hodgesand Tillis punched the ball in with 3:30 left in the first half.
They added another score on an 80-yard pick six by Kaltenbaugh for the 20-0 halftime advantage.
“They lined up and they beat us tonight and you’ve got to applaud them for that,” said Welch. “I thought our kids did hang in well. We didn’t quit and lay down and I’m proud of them for that. You just have to learn from it, regroup and keep going.
“I thought we got some things going and they got that interception right there before the half. We were basically beating them in the second half but we had to really beat them to win the ball game and we couldn’t do it.”
Garner was 7 for 14 passing for 104 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Cove. Smith was 5 for 12 passing for 60 yards.
Herrera led the Cove rushers with 76 yards on 11 carries and Tim Edwards had 38 yards on five carries. Small led the Cove receivers with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Hodges and Tillis each broke the century mark with 146 yards on 15 carries for Hodges and 123 yards on 20 carries and two scores by Tillis. Eneli added 85 yards and a score on 13 totes.
Senior Tyson Curry led the Dawgs defense with 7.5 tackles and Connell had an interception.
Jonathan Medina led the Knights’ defense with six tackles, including one for a loss.