Big first half leads to Bulldawgs 41-24 win over Lions
By TJ MAXWELL
WACO – With a logjam of teams within a few games of each other, the Bulldawgs needed a big road win over the Waco High Lions to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Slow starts have doomed the Bulldawgs in their four losses but a 34-point explosion in the first half against the Lions broke that trend in their 41-24 win over the Lions Friday night at Waco ISD Stadium.
“I thought we executed really well at the start of the game,” Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez said in a post-game interview. “We were running and throwing and doing whatever we wanted to do. Then the defense came out and got stops.”
The Bulldawgs amassed 325 yards of total offense and five scores while being a perfect 4 for 4 on third down conversions on their way to a 34-7 halftime lead.
“We worked hard on trying to have focus by doing a few little things different – how we act before the game,” said Alvarez. “I think that will impact with them just to realize the seriousness of the game that’s fixing to happen.”
The Bulldawgs opened the scoring with three-yard touchdown run by senior Micah Cox to finish a 73-yard scoring drive in seven plays.
The Cove defense then forced a Waco punt and set up another scoring drive. The Dawgs drove 89 yards on 10 plays capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by junior running back Brandon Ortega with 3:09 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldawgs’ defense then decided to get in on the fun as senior Nathaniel David forced a fumble on the Lions’ next drive with senior Malaich Lyons recovering to set up another scoring drive capped by a three-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Shane Richey to senior Elijah Delacruz with 9:02 left in the second quarter.
“We were just able to play fast and make our reads,” said David. “We haven’t really been at the right depth and we were at the right depth today to get our reads and play fast.”
Sophomore linebacker Benjamin Shumaker had a sack fumble on the Lions’ ensuing possession and senior linebacker Kendal Parker scooped and scored from 38 yards out for the 27-0 Copperas Cove lead with 7:13 left in the first half.
“It felt great,” Parker said of his defensive score. “At first, I didn’t have it, but it just felt like a magnet in my hand and I took off with it.”
The Lions broke the shutout with a 40-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Nate Reyna to Xavier Williams on the second play from scrimmage. A 47-yard kickoff return by Jerome Ratliff set up the Lions in Bulldawgs’ territory.
The Bulldawgs responded with a five-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Richey to senior wideout Jaylin Smith with 4:52 left in the first half. The extra point by Cam Ryan made it a 34-7 Cove lead. Richey finished the half 6 for 7 passing for 87 yards and two scores.
The Lions had one last opportunity at a score before the half, but a 28-yard field goal attempt missed wide right with 17 seconds left for a 34-7 Cove lead at the half.
The Lions put together a 13-play scoring drive to open the second half, capped by a 22-yard field goal for a 34-10 score.
The Bulldawgs responded with an eight-play scoring drive and finished with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Richey to Smith for the 41-10 lead with 3:05 left in the in the third period after the Ryan extra point.
An offensive penalty against the Lions slowed a promising drive for the Lions before a bad snap rolled 25 yards in the wrong direction on 4th and 12 from the Cove 48.
The Lions forced a turnover on downs and a punt on the Dawgs’ next two possessions while converting two scoring drives of their own for a 41-24 final score.
A one-handed grab by senior Anthony Abrams on an eight-yard pass from Reyna capped a five-play, 59-yard drive. A 50-yard pass from Reyna to senior Jerome Ratliff set up the score.
The Lions’ final score came on a one-play 78-yard pass from Reyna to Roy McChristian after the Cove defender slipped near midfield.
The Bulldawgs finished with 431 yards of total offense on 61 plays.
Richey was 8 for 13 passing for 108 yards and three touchdowns with Smith leading the way with six catches for 96 yards and two scores.
Cox finished the night with 24 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bulldawgs’ rushing attack. Delacruz added 13 carries for 138 and Ortega added 22 yards and a touchdown on two carries.
David led the Cove defense with seven tackles, including .5 for a loss. Parker finished with five tackles, including 1.5 for losses, and a fumble return for a touchdown. Senior Malaich Lyons added five tackles and Shumaker had 4.5, .5 TFL and a forced fumble.
Reyna was 13 for 13 passing for 314 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Ratliff finished with six carries for 133 yards to lead the Lions’ receivers while McChristian had 1 catch for 78 yards and a score, Williams had two catches for 60 yards and a score and Abrams had three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Ridge led the Lions’ rushing attack with 59 yards on eight carries. Sophomore quarterback Davion Long added 25 yards on three rushes.
Senior Keith Guillory (9 tackles, 1 TFL) led the Lions’ defense followed by junior Zamarion Johnson (8 tackles, 1 TFL).
A 24-21 win by Harker Heights (2-2) over Ellison (2-2) on Thursday night, along with wins by Temple (4-0) over Belton (2-2) and Shoemaker (2-2) over Killeen (1-3) opened the door for Copperas Cove to inch towards one of the four playoff spots and the Bulldawgs took full advantage. Four teams are tied at 2-2 above the Bulldawgs (1-3) for the final two playoff spots.
Cove hosts first-place Waco Midway (3-0) this Friday at Bulldawg Stadium before finishing at Harker Heights, hosting Shoemaker and on the road at Temple November 8 in the regular season finale.